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What does Stewart-Ward case judge’s decision mean for racing in general?

On Tuesday, a U.S. district judge in the state of New York issued his opinion/decision relating to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Kevin Ward Jr. against retired NASCAR driver Tony Stewart because of Ward’s 2014 death at Canandaigua Motorsports Park after he exited his car on a live race track and was struck by a sprint car driven by Stewart.

One of the attention-getting elements of that judge’s decision was his declaration, that under New York law, the waivers signed by Ward and his father/car owner were not enforceable, because the Empire Sprints race during which Ward lost his life was a recreational event.

Sure, the law the judge cited was a New York-specific law, but what if there are similar laws in other states around the country? And what does this judge’s decision mean for racing?

My first question in all of this is, what’s the point of the waiver if it’s, essentially, invalid. Apparently, the waiver the Wards signed wasn’t worth any more than the paper it was printed on, so what was the point in requiring their signatures on it?

Also, what does such a decision mean for auto racing, both in New York and elsewhere? If a track and/or racing series can’t count on waivers for protection from lawsuits, how could said track/series expect to obtain insurance? And without insurance, how would a race track host races?

Are all races in all racing series at all levels in this country considered recreational events? If not, where does the categorization of recreational event end? Are Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races recreational events, too? I don’t have the answers.

This judge’s decision isn’t good for racing, especially when it comes to deeming waivers unenforceable. The lack of meaningful waivers, again, would make insurance companies leery of insuring racing events and probably race car drivers, for that matter. Without that valuable insurance, races would be discontinued and race tracks, therefore, forced out of business.

But let’s say racing manages to continue. At the top NASCAR level, even if competitors manage to get insured to continue competing, fan experiences would probably change as we know it, especially for fans who are accustomed pit/garage passes, especially during “hot” periods? Say goodbye to that privilege if tracks’ ability to obtain insurance is affected by this.

I’m not going to take sides in the whole Stewart-Ward thing, at least not publicly, at least not here. That being said, I’m hoping the idea of unenforceable waivers is overturned somewhere along the line of the appeals process that I’m guessing is going to follow.

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Posted by on December 13, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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