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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Indiana pays six-figure settlements to Santiago's estate and Brennon in stage collapse
News update posted Dec. 20, 2011
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2011-12-21

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Indiana State Fair stage collapse survivors, including Alisha Brennon, have accepted a settlement from the state over the accident.

Brennon, who is suing a host of private companies over the disaster that killed her wife, LGBT activist Christina Santiago, has accepted more than $300,000 for the wrongful death of Santiago.

She has also accepted more than $100,000 for her own injuries sustained in the accident.

The families of the other six victims to die in the collapse have accepted settlements as well.

Brennon received the same settlement as heterosexual complainants who lost a spouse in the accident, possibly setting a precedent for same-sex partner recognition for wrongful deaths in Indiana, according to her attorney.

Brennon and Allen have said they filed suit to challenge Indiana's lack of recognition for same-sex couples. Brennon and Santiago had a civil union in Illinois, a relationship not recognized under Indiana state law.

But how historic the case is may be up for debate. Indiana officials said that Brennon was awarded the money as a claimant. Brennon was granted control of Santiago's estate by an Illinois, probate court. According to Bryan Corbin, a spokesperson for the Indiana Attorney General's office, the settlement to Brennon was granted because she controls the estate, not because she is a surviving spouse.

But Allen argued that Brennon could not have received the money without being a dependent of next-of-kin, by virtue of Indiana state law. In granting Brennon money for a wrongful death claim, he said, Indiana has automatically acknowledged the relationship.

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director at Lambda Legal, said that regardless of the legal fine points, the settlement is significant for LGBT people.

" [ Alisha ] was treated in the same manner as spouses would be treated," she said. "Whether it sets up some sort of precedent for similar settlements in the future, I think is less clear."

Taylor added that Indiana "did the right thing" in deciding not to challenge Brennon's claim.

Indiana state law caps damages that can be paid for a single incident at $5 million, a law that Allen previously said he would challenge. Between the dozens that filed suit against the state, Brennon and others walked away with percentage of the money.

In total, 58 people were injured in the stage collapse, and seven were killed.

"The clients were put in a pretty untenable situation," said Brennon's attorney Kenneth Allen, adding that he disagreed with his clients' decision to settle.

"We are proceeding against other defendants," Allen noted.

Other defendants include a long list of companies involved in the concert production.

Indiana also awarded Brennon money for her medical bills and Santiago's funeral costs.

Click the link for earlier coverage, Brennon speaks about Santiago, stage collapse, 2011-12-14, www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=35209


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