Lawyers weigh possible legal fallout of Daytona crash

Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:41pm EST
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By Casey Sullivan

(Reuters) - Spectators injured when they were hit by wreckage from a crash at a NASCAR race on Saturday face a significant obstacle if they want to pursue injury lawsuits against Daytona International Speedway, its owner and the sport's governing body NASCAR: the fine print on their tickets.

Lawyers say that in the event of litigation arising from the pile-up at a second-tier Nationwide race, NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), Daytona speedway and its owner, International Speedway Corporation, would likely point to the disclaimers displayed on auto-racing tickets, which are designed to inform buyers of potential dangers and waive any personal injury liability.

Spokespeople for Daytona International Speedway, International Speedway Corporation and NASCAR did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

About 30 spectators were injured when the crash propelled debris, including at least one tire, through and over the fence meant to protect the crowd. Two spectators who were originally listed as critical on Saturday were described as in stable condition on Sunday. Others were either in stable condition in hospital or had been treated and released.

The disclaimer on a Daytona ticket says: "The holder of this ticket expressly assumes all risk incident to the event, whether occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual event, and agrees that all participants, sanctioning bodies, and all employees, agents, officers, and directors of Daytona International Speedway, its affiliates and subsidiaries, are hereby released from any and all claims arising from the event, including claims of negligence."

It has become common practice for sports businesses to place the disclaimers on the back of ticket stubs for admission to a variety of venues, such as ski resorts, hockey arenas and baseball fields, lawyers said.

Lee Kaplan, a trial lawyer who has defended Chrysler Group and Toyota Motor Corporation in product liability cases, said he felt the language in the Daytona disclaimer should be enough to cover possible claims arising from the Daytona crash. He said spectators understand the risk they are taking by buying a Daytona ticket.

"They are held to the knowledge that racing is inherently dangerous and spectators can be injured," said Kaplan, a Houston lawyer, noting that the word "risk" in the disclaimer captures that sentiment.   Continued...

NASCAR driver Kyle Larson (32) and his Chevrolet end up in the fence during the final lap crash during the during the NASCAR Nationwide Series 32nd Annual DRIVE4COPD 300 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida February 23, 2013. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme