Fans injured at NASCAR race explore legal options

  • Follow Nascar

ORLANDO, Fla. — The attorney for three NASCAR fans injured last weekend during a race the day before the Daytona 500 says they are exploring a possible lawsuit, but some experts say they could face tough obstacles in winning damages.

Back | Next
Kyle Larson (32) goes airborne into the catch fence in a multi-car crash including  Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), Parker Kligerman (77), Justin Allgaier (31) and Brian Scott (2) at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.  JOHN RAOUX/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOHN RAOUX/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Kyle Larson (32) goes airborne into the catch fence in a multi-car crash including Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), Parker Kligerman (77), Justin Allgaier (31) and Brian Scott (2) at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.

Matt Morgan, the Orlando-based lawyer for the fans, said at a news conference Tuesday than any suit would focus on the safety fence used along the track at Daytona International Speedway. He said he hopes to reach a settlement with NASCAR to avoid a lawsuit.

More than 30 people were injured last Saturday after a horrific wreck in a second-tier NASCAR series race sent chunks of debris, including a heavy tire, into the stands. Morgan declined to provide the identities of his clients, but said two of them were seated directly in front of the crash and sustained injuries ranging from a fractured fibula to abdominal swelling. All have been released from the hospital.

Some experts say there could be grounds for a lawsuit, and that courts have looked past liability waivers written on the backs of sporting event tickets. Others maintain the ticket is a legal contract that could be hard to overcome in court.

“Ultimately, I believe it would be gross negligence,” Morgan said. “We all know that when you go to a race you assume a certain amount of risk. But what people don’t assume is that a race car will come flying into the stands. … That’s why they make the fences.”

Asked to comment on the fans’ retention of a law firm, NASCAR spokesman David Higdon wrote in a statement, “We are unaware of any lawsuits filed.”

Daytona International Speedway is owned by International Speedway Corp., a NASCAR sister company. Spokesman Andrew Booth said, “As per company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation.”

Donnalynn Darling, a New York-based attorney who has been practicing personal injury law for 30 years, said there is a theory that a spectator who buys tickets to a sporting event assumes the risk of objects coming out of the field of play, such as a foul ball at a baseball game.

But she said there is also a foreseeable risk question that promoters of events also accept.

“Did the sporting event promoter take action to prevent that specific risk?” Darling asked. “In terms of this fence … it was put up to prevent people from being hurt. You have people who were not only injured by falling debris, but by the failure of the fence.”

Others say such restrictive clauses on the back of tickets are generally disfavored by Florida courts.

“If it’s just something written on the back of the ticket and not called to the attention of the person purchasing, there’s reason to believe many courts in Florida won’t hold that they consented efficiently,” said University of Florida emeritus law professor Joseph Little.

Still, Paul Huck, an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law, said contract law could take precedence.

“A ticket to one of these events is like a contract – and its provisions limiting liability are generally enforceable,” he said. “We enter into these types of contracts on a regular basis, and we often don’t give it a second thought that we may be limiting or even giving up certain legal rights when we do so.”

Darling also said that the fence’s manufacturer at Daytona would likely be “very much responsible” because of it being foreseeable that debris could go through a fence that has holes in it.

That seems to be theory that Morgan is adopting. He referenced a 2009 crash at NASCAR’s racetrack in Talladega, Ala. in which a car that launched into the catch fence sent debris into the stands and injured several fans.

“At that point in time a group of engineers got together and they said ‘It’s time for us to manufacture a safer fence,’” Morgan said. “To my knowledge, that was done. But what we have to investigate at this point in time is what was done … If you can ever point to monetary considerations being put ahead of people, then there’s a big problem.”

Darling predicted that NASCAR would try to settle with the injured fans.

NASCAR “had an obligation to protect the fans that are so loyal, and it is bad from a public relations standpoint,” Darling said. “So they’re going to do something.”

Comments (2) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
84110
Points
Riverman1 02/27/13 - 10:15 am
0
0
I wouldn't doubt if there are

I wouldn't doubt if there are not people who were watching on TV suing too. They would say they were surprised and jumped back injuring their backs or something.

Young Fred
17467
Points
Young Fred 02/27/13 - 10:21 pm
0
0
In this case, I don't

In this case, I don't necessarily think you should sue for gobs and gobs of money. Pay my medical bills, reimburse me for any lost time at work and give me a life-time pass to Daytona and I'd be a happer camper!

Back to Top

Top headlines

Vogtle workers see both reactor projects

Some veterans of the nuclear industry were at the site south of Augusta to see the complex network of rebar and concrete rising out of the ground in the 1970s and ’80s. Now, they are back.
Search Augusta jobs