HAMMOND | The owners of Merrillville's Star Plaza Theater are suing the New Shanghai Circus and its affiliates, claiming the circus is responsible for a 2011 fire that caused nearly $600,000 of damage to the facility.
Whiteco Industries, doing business as the Star Plaza Theatre, filed the federal lawsuit against Non-Stop Creativity Corp., New Shanghai Circus, New Shanghai Circus Touring and the New Shanghai Circus Tour, arguing the entities were negligent and breached their contract, according to the complaint filed in Hammond federal court.
The defendants denied Whiteco's allegations and argued Whiteco failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted, court records show. The defendants also claim the dispute should be in arbitration.
The lawsuit initially was filed in July in the U.S. District Court in New Albany, Ind., court records show. It was transferred Tuesday to federal court in Hammond.
The lawsuit relates to a Shanghai Circus performance Feb. 9, 2011, at the Merrillville theater. During that performance, a dancer knocked a superheated foot light into a stage curtain, igniting it, according to the complaint.
More than 1,800 people were ushered out of the building after the red velvet curtain caught fire, the Ross Township fire chief said at the time. The fire damage was limited to the stage area, but there was moderate smoke and water damage to the first 10 rows of the theater, according to the chief.
Whiteco Industries' insurance carrier paid $597,196 to restore the theater, according to the lawsuit. Whiteco also had to pay a $25,000 deductible.
Whiteco is seeking a judgment against the companies for $622,196, court records state.