Fans Injured at NASCAR Race Explore Their Legal Options

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.

Matt Morgan, the Orlando-based lawyer for the fans, said at a news conference yesterday 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.

Football

John Harbaugh Named
To Cradle of Coaches

Oxford, Ohio — Ravens coach John Harbaugh will be inducted into the “Cradle of Coaches” association at his alma mater Miami University next year.

Harbaugh’s team won the Super Bowl, beating his brother, Jim’s, San Francisco 49ers 34-31 for the Ravens’ second NFL title.

He graduated from the southwest Ohio school in 1984.

A bronze, life-size statue of Harbaugh will be added to the Cradle of Coaches display on a plaza outside Yager Stadium early next year, joining the statues of Paul Brown, Bo Schembechler, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, Earl “Red” Blaik, Carm Cozza, Paul Dietzel, and John Pont.

The statues honor Miami graduates who have been named a coach of the year at the college or professional level, won a national college or NFL title, or been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame or the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hockey

Coach Gets 15 Days
For Tripping

Richmond, British Columbia — A Vancouver pee-wee hockey coach was sentenced to 15 days in jail for tripping a player during a postgame handshake.

Martin Tremblay swept out the leg of an opposing player while the teams were going through the typical hockey ritual of lining up to shake hands after the game. Two players, a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old, fell to the ice. The move was caught on video.

The 48-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of assault in November. Richmond provincial court Judge Patrick Chen gave Tremblay jail time, saying he wasn’t satisfied that time served in the community was enough to denounce or deter the man for his actions.