Can Daytona Speedway be held liable for spectators injuries?

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nascar, daytona 500February 2013: NASCAR is one of the more dangerous sports, not just for the drivers but for the fans as well.  Kyle Larson’s car crashed into the fence while going around 175 miles per hour in the last lap of Saturday’s Nationwide race. Parts of his engine flew through the fence and into the stands.  About 30 people went to the hospital with injuries.   The injured spectators 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.

 
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.
 
But one question that might arise could be whether the disclaimers are enough to offset any questions about whether the organizers provided strong enough fencing and appropriate seating arrangements to keep fans safe from danger, personal injury lawyers said.  If it were proven that Daytona knew that the fans were in harm’s way and opted against taking action such as changing the fans’ seating arrangement or setting more distance between the safety fence and the track, then potential injury claims were more likely to supersede any so-called “buyer beware” ticket disclaimer,
 
Saturday’s wreck happened after driver Regan Smith, who was leading the race, attempted to block another driver as they were nearing the checkered flag in the final lap of the race and hit the other car, a report on NASCAR.com said. This led to a pile up that sent driver Kyle Larson’s car airborne and ripped out its engine, sending the debris into the crowd. He walked away from the wreckage unhurt.
 
NASCAR has required tracks to have $50 million in insurance to cover spectator injuries, money that would be used to cover lawsuits against it, according to SEC filings.
 

Sources:
News4jax: Attorney- Daytona Speedway could be held liable for fans injuries  
Thomson Reuters: Lawyers weigh possible legal fallout of Daytona crash  

 

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