By AMANDA VINCENT
The family of Kevin Ward Jr. filed a wrongful death lawsuit against three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart on Friday in Lewis County (N.Y.) Supreme Court. Ward was struck and killed by a sprint car driven by Stewart Aug. 9, 2014, during a Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. Specifically, the suit is seeking damages for claims of wrongful death, reckless conduct, gross negligence and Ward’s suffering during the time between the incident and his death.
After wrecking in the race at Canandaigua, Ward, under the influence of marijuana, according to a report from a New York district attorney, exited his car during a caution and approached Stewart’s moving car on foot. Ward was wearing a black firesuit at the dimly lit track. He was declared dead as a result of blunt force trauma 45 minutes later at a local hospital.
The lawsuit claims, “Stewart could have easily acted reasonably and with prudence to avoid striking Ward, just as all other drivers had done as they passed Ward during the yellow cautiion flag. Stewart acted with disregard for Ward’s life and safety by driving his vehicle in a manner that would terrorize Ward and thereafter strike, severely injure and kill Ward.”
The suit claims Stewart accelerated, causing his car to slide and strike Ward.
When Stewart first spoke publicly after the incident he contended that it was “100 percent an accident.”
The Ward family released the following statement on Friday:
“Our son was truly the light of our lives and we miss him terribly every day. Our hope is that this lawsuit will hold Tony Stewart responsible for killing our son and show him there are real consequences when someone recklessly takes another person’s life.”
A spokesman for Stewart said Stewart had no comment.
The Ward family is being represented by New York attorney Mark Lanier, while Indianapolis lawyer James Voyles represents Stewart.
An Ontario County, N.Y., grand jury decided last September that no criminal charges should be brought against Stewart.
Stewart is at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, preparing for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It will be Stewart’s first race at Watkins Glen since 2012. Last year’s Cheez-It 355, held the day after the fatal incident at Canandaigua was the first of three Sprint Cup Series races Stewart missed while dealing with the incident. He miss the 2013 race at Watkins Glen as he recovered from injuries sustained in a sprint car wreck.
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