Archive for the ‘Auto Racing’ Category

A Racing Incident – Claims of Go Kart Driver Injured by Driver with Down Syndrome to be Decided by a Jury (NY)

August 20, 2015

Corneli v. Adventure Racing Co., LLC (New York)
(trial court disposition)

Plaintiff participated as driver in go kart activities at the defendant’s racing entertainment facility, and he was injured when his go kart was struck by the go kart operated by defendant C.S., a seventeen-year-old who suffered from Down’s Syndrome.  Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the facility, alleging that the facility was negligent in the ownership, operation, management, maintenance supervision, staff training and control of the go kart ride and in the supervision and control of C.S.  The lawsuit was also filed against C.S. for negligently operating and driving the go kart, and C.S.’s alleged mother and father for negligent entrustment and allowing C.S. to negligently operate the go kart in a dangerous manner.

The defendant go kart facility filed a motion for summary judgment based on the doctrine of assumption of risk.  C.S.’s alleged mother and father filed cross-claims against the facility, and the mother and father filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that they were not responsible for C.S.’s conduct.  Plaintiff then filed his own motion for summary judgment.  The New York U.S. District Court addressed each motion in turn.
(more…)

Speed Trap

November 15, 2012

Hines v. Camper (Ohio)(Not Published)
(A passenger in a car participating in a street race was injured when the car crashed.  After the insurer of the driver’s car refused to afford coverage, the plaintiff brought an uninsured/underinsured action against it.  The trial court ruled that the policy exclusion relating to racing and speed contests precluded coverage.  The passenger appealed, arguing he was not a “participant,” but  the decision was affirmed on appeal.)

The plaintiff and several of his friends gathered to participate in an amateur street drag race one evening.  Plaintiff sat in the back seat of the car during the race since the front passenger seat did not have a seatbelt.  During the race, the driver of the car lost control and they crashed, with the plaintiff suffering numerous injuries.  Following the incident, the plaintiff sought recovery from the insurance company that insured the parents of the driver.  However, the claim was denied based upon the exclusion that provided that the insurer “will not pay any damages an insured person or an additional insured person is legally entitled to recover because of bodily injury . . . arising out of the participation in a pre-arranged, organized, or spontaneous . . . racing contest . . . speed contest . . .or use of an auto at a track or course designed or used for racing or high performance driving . . . .”

At the trial court level, the defendant insurer’s motion for summary judgment was granted based on both the aforementioned policy exclusion and the plaintiff’s assumption of the risk of injury associated with him entering the vehicle involved in the street race.  The plaintiff appealed, arguing (1) he was not a “participant” in the street race because he was not driving and (2) there was a triable issue of material fact pertaining to his assumption of the risk.

(more…)

A Racing Incident

September 28, 2012

Ketchum v. Mercer Raceway Park, LLC (Pennsylvania)(Not Published)
(A race team crew member was killed when a race car left the racing surface and struck a guard rail in front of the crew member; his estate sued the speedway for wrongful death.)

The incident occurred in 2007 during a race at the defendant’s speedway.  The decedent and a friend were volunteer members of a pit crew.  They were standing near a guard rail and catch fence barrier of the pit area watching a race when a race car moved across the racing surface and collided with the guard rail and catch fence.  The concrete footing of the fence was ripped from the ground, and a steel pole was separated from the footing, striking the decedent.

According to the evidence presented, sometime prior to the incident, the owner of the racetrack hired the track’s manager to improve the fencing around the track for safety reasons.  The manager designed and installed the barrier “on his own” without instruction, guidance, or formal education or training.  He was learning as he went along and utilized his “best guess” as to how far into the ground to place each pole.  The manager was aware that steel posts could be separated from the footing of a fence and pulled from the ground because he had seen it happen before.

Prior to their entry into the facility and participation on the pit crew, the decedent and his friend paid a pit entrance fee and signed a “Release and Waiver of Liability and Indemnity Agreement.”  They understood what they were signing and knew that crashes occurred and had seen cars collide with walls/guard rails.  They had participated as pit crew members at numerous prior events and had signed many prior waiver and release agreements.  The evidence also showed that the racetrack posted rules specific to the pit area at its entrance, along with warning signs to both participants and patrons concerning the possible dangers of watching automobile racing.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that the defendant “acted negligently with respect to the construction and installation of the guard rail and fencing.”  The defendant thereafter moved for summary judgment based upon the waiver and release agreements signed by the injured pit crew members.  The plaintiffs made several arguments against the enforceability of the waiver and release documents, but the trial court disagreed, granting the motion.  The plaintiff appealed.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals addressed each of plaintiffs arguments in turn.

(more…)

The Shaft

August 29, 2012

Nesbitt v. NMCA, et. al (Illinois – pending)
(A drag racer injured when a driveshaft broker and entered the cockpit is suing multiple parties, including the racing association, the sanctioning body, and the chassis manufacturer.)

CompetitionPlus.com recently posted a story here about the lawsuit filed in Cook County Court.  The article includes an initial response from the National Muscle Car Association (“NMCA”).  The NMCA is not surprised about the lawsuit considering the current state of the judicial system and is very confident in its ability to defend the claim, particularly in light of the waiver and release agreement signed by Nesbitt prior to participation.

NOTE: Legal claims that arise out of these types of incidents that appear to derive from nothing more than the risks inherent in a dangerous sporting activity like motorsports are obviously a significant reason for inconsistency and high cost associated with sports insurance products.

Rubbin’ Is Not Racin’

May 4, 2011

Pit Area Intentional Misconduct (Nebraska)
(Race car driver who intentionally drove into another participant in a restricted area receives criminal sentence.)

Short track race car driver Cory Dumpert was recently sentenced to 18 months probation by a judge in Cass County, Nebraska in connection with an incident that occurred at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Nebraska in June of 2010.  Dumpert intentionally sped through the infield pit area and slammed into the car driven by fellow racer Chad Sanders, who received minor injuries.  Dumpert was suspended for a year and fined $500 by the track.  Criminal charges were filed against Dumpert and he was ultimately sentenced on charges of third-degree assault and criminal mischief.

NOTE: It will be interesting to see if Sanders brings a civil action against Dumpert and/or the track. Waiver and release documents are enforceable in Nebraska and the track also potentially could be expected to assert that as a defense to any civil action brought by Sanders. One might expect an argument to be made, however, that being injured as a result of Dumpert’s intentional assault is not an incident that is reasonably related to the claimant’s auto racing activities at the track.

Coverage Denied for Injury to Motorsports “Participant”

January 19, 2011

T.H.E. Insurance v. Cochran Motor Speedway (Georgia)
(Minor in the pit area of a racetrack deemed to be a participant; insurance coverage denied due to a participant exclusion.)

A stepfather and his minor daughter attended a racing event at the defendant’s racing facility.  The stepfather purchased pit passes for himself and the minor, and he signed a waiver and release from liability and indemnity agreement on their behalf.  The stepfather had some sort of affiliation with one of the racing team’s that happened to be crowned the winner of the local points championship on the evening in question.  The team decided to celebrate the championship by driving the racecar back onto the racetrack to the front straightaway.  The minor daughter was placed on top of the car and it began to drive onto the racetrack.  While it was moving, she fell from the car and was injured.  The minor daughter then filed a lawsuit against the racetrack, its owner, and the driver of the race car to recover for her personal injuries.  The racetrack submitted the claim to its insurance company, which denied coverage and filed a claim for declaratory relief.  Eventually, the plaintiff insurer filed a motion for summary judgment based upon exclusions in the policy, and the Court granted the motion. (more…)

Not Making the Grade

November 26, 2007

Harris v. I-44 Lebanon (Missouri)
(Late Model Race Car Driver Injured While Racing on a Dirt Track When a Large Rock Hit His Helmet; Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Waiver and Release Denied; Defense Verdict Issued After Trial)

The case involved late model racing on an oval dirt track in Lebanon, Missouri. The Plaintiff was a 51-year-old lifelong dirt track racer who was injured in 2003 when he was struck by a rock in the mouth area of his helmet during a late model dirt track race.

Roughly five months before this accident, the Lebanon I-44 Speedway was converted from an asphalt track to a dirt race track, which involved laying dirt over the asphalt surface. The initial batch of dirt was unsatisfactory so the track preparer, Randy Mooneyham, removed this dirt and put an entirely new type of dirt on the track. After it was placed on the track, he then used a rock picker, a rock rake and a grader to work the debris out of the track and pack it down throughout the 2003 season. Plaintiff raced on the track several times during 2003 before his accident.

(more…)