Alisha Brennon, whose partner, Christina Santiago (pictured), was killed when a concert stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair last month, plans to file a wrongful death suit, her attorney told Windy City Times.
Attorney Richard N. Rosenberg said Brennon will seek “a substantial amount of money” for her own injuries as well Santiago’s death. He declined to say what companies or individuals will be named in the complaint.
Brennon and Santiago, who was program manager for the Lesbian Community Care Project at Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Center, were among the first couples in Illinois to obtain a civil union license, according to friends. The right to sue for a partner’s wrongful death is one of the rights that come with Illinois civil unions, which became available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in June.
In contrast, in neighboring Indiana, there is no governmental recognition of same-sex relationships, therefore no legal basis for a wrongful death suit. However, an Indiana woman, Beth Urschel, whose partner, Tammy VanDam, was killed in the collapse, has filed a wrongful death suit just the same, naming various companies involved with the stage construction and concert production; her attorney, Kenneth Allen, says the suit will challenge the state’s lack of partner recognition.
Urschel and Brennon were both seriously injured in the collapse, which occurred as rain and high winds blew through the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis August 13 shortly before the country band Sugarland was to take the stage. Urschel lost part of a foot and suffered severe nerve damage, while Brennon sustained a broken leg and multiple fractures to her face and ribs. Brennon has been in and out of the hospital and was scheduled to be released today. A total of seven people died as a result of the accident, and dozens were injured.
A celebration of Santiago’s life has been scheduled for 1 p.m. September 10 at the Chicago History Museum. The event is open to the public, and in lieu of flowers, organizers suggest donations to the Lesbian Community Care Project, Amigas Latinas (where Santiago was a board member), or a fund to assist Santiago and Brennon’s families with medical and funeral expenses. Also, Santiago’s friends in New York City, where she grew up, have scheduled a memorial and fund-raiser for 2-7 p.m. September 25 at Beso Lounge in the Bronx, with proceeds to benefit the Lesbian Community Care Project and the couple’s families.