Wrongful death claims from state fair accident will test Indiana law on partner recognition

by on September 21, 2011  •  In Family law

From the IndyStar:

Legal claims filed by the lesbian partners of two women killed in a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair last month could lead Indiana to examine how it defines survivors in wrongful death cases despite the state's stance against same-sex unions.

Christina Santiago, 29, Chicago, and Tammy VanDam, 42, Wanatah, Ind., were among seven people who died after a strong gust of wind toppled the stage rigging before an Aug. 13 concert by country band Sugarland. Santiago's partner, Alisha Brennon, and VanDam's partner, Beth Urschel, were injured.

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Urschel, and a wrongful death tort claim — a precursor to a possible suit — has been filed with the state of Indiana on behalf of Brennon.

Indiana's wrongful death statute allows next of kin to collect damages. But those are technically people related by DNA, adoption or marriage, said Jennifer A. Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.

VanDam and Urschel had registered several years ago in Hawaii as reciprocal beneficiaries, a status that confers some of the legal benefits of marriage — including survivor benefits — to unmarried couples. Friends and colleagues said Brennon and Santiago had gone through a civil union in Illinois and planned to marry.

Indiana doesn't recognize those acts. But the courts could choose to define next of kin more broadly to include people who live together, share bank accounts, have children together or are otherwise committed to sharing their lives, Drobac said…


One Response to Wrongful death claims from state fair accident will test Indiana law on partner recognition

  1. Ethan Rehman December 15, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Even if the law states that claims are null and void, the power of love prevails over justice! I believe they have entrusted their partners each others’ lives for moments such as these.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *