Sugarland Testimony Sealed By Indiana Judge
Attorneys Engage In War Of Words Over Depositions
A judge hearing several lawsuits filed after last summer’s Indiana State Fair stage collapse declined Wednesday to release depositions from the members of country duo Sugarland and told a plaintiff’s attorney he shouldn’t have publicized videotaped portions of the lead singer Jennifer Nettles’ testimony last month, reports the Associated Press. The judge also told attorneys he’ll rule by early next week on a schedule for moving those suits toward resolution, and may also expand an existing gag order.
Last August, just before Sugarland was scheduled to take the stage at the fair, stage rigging collapsed during a storm, killing seven people and injuring nearly 60 others. Fair officials claim they had a concert promoter ask the band twice to delay the concert because of concerns about severe weather, but were rebuffed.
Nettles said in the deposition she was told about 90 minutes before the scheduled start of the concert that weather was coming but wasn’t specifically told it was a severe thunderstorm, AP reports. She also said she relies on others to alert her about weather.
An attorney representing several of the victims released videotaped portions Nettles’ deposition in response to what he called inaccurate statements by the band’s publicists.
That attorney asked the court Wednesday for permission to release full transcripts of Nettles’ deposition and also that of band mate Kristian Bush. He said those documents would help his clients counter what he called misleading statements by Sugarland’s “publicity machine.”
An attorney for the band countered that the release of the video testimony by the plaintiffs’ attorney was a “stunt” designed to cast the band in a bad light and suggest Sugarland had somehow caused the tragedy.
But the judge said he would not allow the release of Nettles’ and Bush’s depositions because they’re covered by a gag order he approved in January barring the release of certain evidence. The judge said that he’ll rule early next week on whether to expand the scope of that protective order, according to AP’s report. The judge said he will also rule early next week on a proposed agreement by several parties to the lawsuits that calls for them to go to trial after April 1, 2014 and sets other dates for the discovery process and mediation involving the suits.
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Veteran entertainment journalist Phyllis Stark has been reporting extensively on the music industry for two decades. As a freelance writer, her work appears regularly in numerous publications and sites. She previously was Nashville Bureau Chief at Billboard magazine.