Legal claims filed by the partners of two lesbians killed in the Indiana Fair stage collapse could make the state re-examine how it defines survivors in wrongful death cases despite the state’s unwillingness to recognize same-sex unions.
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. Christina Santiago and Tammy VanDam were among seven people who died after Sugarland’s stage toppled.
Santiago’s partner, Alisha Brennon, and VanDam’s partner, Beth Urschel, were injured. 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 in Indianapolis.
“If you behave like a family, then we’ll call you a family,” she said.