NASCAR Driver Tony Stewart Named In Wrongful Death Lawsuit

I wrote extensively last year about the fatal car crash involving Tony Stewart when his sprint car crashed into another driver who had exited his vehicle during the race. The sprint car race took place Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 9, 2014.

As many recall, a criminal investigation occurred following the fatal car accident and Mr. Stewart was absolved of any criminal wrongdoing, including negligent homicide, often referred to as manslaughter. Manslaughter charges can be sought when the crime does not rise to the level of an intentional act. Rather, the criminal act is based on some sort conscious disregard for others, which leads to another’s death. These types of charges are often brought in fatal drunk driving cases. Regardless, a grand jury was convened and they did not believe that Mr. Stewart’s actions were intentional or rose to the level of manslaughter. The grand jury concluded that Kevin Ward’s death was an accident.

Being cleared of criminal actions did not absolve Mr. Stewart from liability in civil court. The family of the deceased driver has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit alleging Stewart of gross negligence, saying he gunned his engine and put his car into a skid as 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. walked onto the track after a crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 9, 2014. The car struck Ward, and he was killed. The lawsuit notes Stewart’s reputation for having a temper and claims that Stewart deliberately veered toward Ward after the collision.

It will be interesting to see how far this case goes into litigation and whether the case actually goes to trial. Mr. Stewart’s legal team will no doubt argue that Mr. Ward was negligent himself by exiting his car and putting himself into harm’s way. If this case goes to the jury, I could see them concluding that Mr. Ward was at least partially at fault for stepping out into the track. The key will be whether the Ward family can prove that Mr. Stewart skidded intentionally and that was a negligent act considering he was so close to the other driver. Further, Ward’s family must show that the skidding action caused Mr. Stewart’s vehicle to fishtail and strike Mr. Ward.

If you or someone you live has been involved in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

NASCAR’S Tony Stewart Cleared Of Criminal Charges But Could Still Face Civil Suit

NBC News reported last week that NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was cleared by a grand jury regarding possible criminal charges resulting from the crash at Canandaigua race track, which killed fellow sprint car racer, Kevin Ward, Jr. Ward climbed out of his car and ran out onto the track to confront Stewart, whose car clipped Ward, eventually killing him in the collision.

The Ontario County district attorney made the announcement last week that Stewart would not face any criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter (i.e. negligent homicide). Interestingly, the district attorney also stated that toxicology reports showed that Ward had marijuana in his system, which allegedly could have caused impairment.

Although Stewart is cleared from criminal charges, he could still face a wrongful death lawsuit from Ward’s estate. That lawsuit would most likely come from Ward’s parents (assuming he was not married and without children). The lawsuit would allege that Stewart acted negligently and/or recklessly at the time of the accident by failing to avoid contact with Ward. This lawsuit will be an uphill battle though. First, the decedent, Ward, left his vehicle and ran out onto the track where he should have known he would be dangerously close to speeding sprint cars. Second, based on the toxicology report (assuming was accurate), could be used to show that Ward was in an impaired state.  One thing I will point at is that all of the other sprint cars that passed Ward had no problem avoiding and driving around Ward. Ward’s attorneys could argue that Stewart did not take the proper precautions that all of the other drivers did and he could have easily avoided this accident.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

NASCAR Driver Tony Stewart Could Face Civil & Criminal Charges For Fatal Crash

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart made national headlines for a fatal crash that occurred Saturday night after his sprint car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a Saturday night race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. To recap, Stewart, who entered this race despite being scheduled for an actual NASCAR event the next day, had an altercation with Ward Jr. while rounding the track which resulted in knocking Ward Jr’s sprint car to the side of the track. A furious Ward Jr. exited his vehicle and walked onto the race track and pointed his finger at Stewart. As Steward was passing Ward Jr., the back end of his car fishtailed and struck Ward Jr. and ultimately killed him right at the scene.

Criminal Charges:

I can honestly say with a straight face that Tony Stewart will not be facing murder charges for this fatal crash as it appears clear that he did not purposely try to injure or kill Ward Jr. The county sheriff and prosecutor are investigating the case right now and I believe it is possible we could see manslaughter charges against Stewart. The level of charge depends upon the intent or what is called mens rea. The prosecutor could conclude that Stewart acted with reckless indifference towards Ward Jr. by driving so close and swerving his car in a way that caused it to fishtail into Ward Jr. The prosecutor may conclude that Steward should have known these actions would cause great bodily harm. These are the types of charges that result often times from drunk driving or reckless driving deaths. The intent (mens rea) was not purposeful but it could be argued that Stewart acted with such indifference towards Ward Jr. that he should be charged. Even if charges are brought, I think this will be a very tough case for the prosecutor because Ward Jr. was acting reckless himself by walking out onto the race track and could be viewed merely as an accident.

Civil Liability:

There is no question that the family of Ward Jr. will file a wrongful death lawsuit against both Tony Stewart and his team and the owners of the race track. The lawsuit will allege that Stewart acted negligently by driving so close and driving in a way causing it to fishtail into Ward Jr. Further, Ward Jr.’s attorneys will argue that Stewart, a veteran driver, should have know that his car could have reacted that way and a fish tail action could have swerved into Ward Jr. Again, like the criminal case, this will be a tough to prove for Ward Jr.’s family because their son acted negligently himself by walking onto the track. Ward Jr., no doubt, will be found at least partially at fault for his own death. This is referred to as comparative fault, which depending on the percentage found by the jury, could reduce any award given to the family. If Stewart (and the race track) are found at least 51% at fault, then Stewart and the race track owners will have to pay damages to the Ward Jr. family for his wrongful death.

This is a case I will be following closely and will definitely be posting about again once we learn more information.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an Illinois wrongful death case or a Chicago car crash, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.