By AMANDA VINCENT
US District Court Judge David Hurd ruled Tuesday that the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Kevin Ward Jr. against NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and car owner Tony Stewart will remain in a federal court in Utica, N.Y., according to a report by ESPN. The Ward family didn’t oppose the move, but the judge wrote that there was not a significant enough reason to move the case.
In his change of venue request, Stewart’s attorney stated convenience for witnesses and others involved in the case.
“The issue becomes whether the additional amount of travel required to reach the courthouse in downtown Utica — at most, an additional 88 miles for several key witnesses — constitutes the sort of significant inconvenience that would tip the balance in favor of transfer. A review of the case law makes it easy to conclude that it does not,” Hurd said.
The Ward family filed the lawsuit on Aug. 7 as a result of an incident during a sprint car race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Parks on Aug. 9, 2014, in which Ward exited his car on a live race track and was struck by the car driven by Stewart. Ward died as a result of injuries sustained from the incident.
Stewart’s attorney asked that the case be moved to Rochester, N.Y., to a court that covers the area in which the race track at which the incident occurred is located. The Ward family’s home is in the area covered by the Utica court.
Stewart’s attorney already had successfully gotten the case moved from a state to federal court.
In other news related to this civil suit, Axis Insurance, the insurance company that insures Stewart’s racing efforts, says that it is not responsible for any payout Stewart may have to make because of the outcome of the lawsuit. The insurance company has filed a declaratory judgment stating it should not have to defend or indemnify Stewart in the case. According to Axis, the incident is not covered by Stewart’s policy. Axis contends that its combined liability insurance policies do not cover claims of one race car driver versus another.
“This insurance does not apply to claims or actions brought by one racing vehicle driver against another racing vehicle driver,” Axis states in its claim. “However in the event of such a claim or action, coverage remains in effect for the First Named Insured and any other applicable insureds; however, coverage is specifically excluded for the racing vehicle driver who is the object of such claim or action.”
Also, the incidident from which the lawsuit stems was an Empire Super Sprints event. Axis says that series is not among the specified events in Stewart’s policy. It Axis covers Stewart in World of Outlaws, USAC Sprint and USAC Silver Crown races.
According to an Insurance Journal report, Stewart has three policies with Axis — a primary commercial general liability policy that’s worth $1 millioin for each occurrence with $2 million aggregate limits, a commercial excess liability policy worth $4 million and an auto policy worth $1 million.
Axis also contends that a $1 million Tony Stewart Racing policy does not apply because the vehicle raced by Stewart at Canandaigua doesn’t qualify as an auto under the plicy and that policy includes a racing exclusion.
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