Attorney: Daytona Speedway could be held liable for fans' injuries

By Tarik Minor, Anchor-reporter, tminor@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 24 2013 12:42:15 PM EST
Updated On: Feb 25 2013 06:38:09 AM EST

An attorney says that despite the disclaimer written on the back of tickets to Daytona International Speedway, fans injured by crash debris flying into the stands during Saturday's Nationwide Series 300 race could sue.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -

Debris flew into the stands, injuring a number of spectators, at least two of them critically during the Nationwide Series 300 race on Saturday.  Attorneys say lawsuits could be on the way.

"There's no question the failure of the fence to protect the people sitting behind the fence, will open up the speedway to liability at the Daytona International Speedway," said attorney Gene Nichols.

NASCAR officials say some of the shredded debris flew into the fence barrier, while other pieces of debris were hurled into the stands reaching the second level about 20 feet up. A large hole was also seen in the fence barrier. 

The back of race fans tickets reads, "The holder of this ticket expressly assures all risk incident to the event, whether occurring prior to, during and subsequent to the actual event and agrees that all participants, sanctioning bodies, and all employees, agents, officers and directors of the Daytona International Speedway are hereby released from any and all claims arising from the event, including claims of negligence."

Attorney Gene Nichols says the disclaimer may not hold up in court

Daytona Speedway ticket waiver "Any court will find and strongly consider, that the waiver on the back of the ticket as not being enforceable. It doesn't establish that the individual read the ticket and even considered the express waiver," said Nichols.

Nichols says the maker of the fence barrier could also be accountable, if the fence failed to do what it was designed to do.

"If the fence that was put in by the fence maker didn't meet the needs of those requested by the Daytona International Speedway and essentially it failed, and should not have. Then there's no question, the fence maker could be liable in this situation as well. Whether it be a personal injury claim or a wrongful death suit," said Nichols.

NASCAR officials made repairs to the fence that was damaged Saturday.

A total of 14 race fans were taken to the hospital; 14 others were treated at the track according to race officials.

According to a spokesperson at Halifax Hospital, two fans were listed in critical condition Saturday night. Other fans may have admitted themselves to the hospital after the crash Saturday according to Associated Press reports.

Fans react to crash

Channel 4's Madiyah Mosley spoke a family that returned to the track even after they were hit by the flying debris.

“NASCAR, if you are a race fan, you love it. You love the sport. There is nothing better than getting on the track hearing those cars,” said Travis Smith of Jacksonville

Smith was hit by debris Saturday. Debris even clipped his little cousin, Caroline Morris, who came from North Carolina for the races.

“Lug nut came flying and hit me. I didn't know what happened at first. I was in shock,” said Morris.

“You are seeing it come right at you. All you can do is turn around and cover, turn back around and see nothing but panic, people hit the ground,” said Smith.

A father and son from Jacksonville said they saw a tire fly over their heads.

“I didn't know a tire landed behind us. When I found out, I was pretty much scared,” said Corey Hester.

"After everything cleared, we got back up and saw the the chaos, saw a lot of people hurt. It was a scary situation," said Bill Hester, Corey's dad.

The two said they felt more alert Sunday, but not enough to walk away from the NASCAR rush. According to Bill, he was more concerned about the traffic on I-95.

No matter how dangerous the sport can get, fans told Channel 4 they'll likely be back next year.

“As a race fan, you know you are going to take the chance of seeing wrecks. These things happen,” said Smith.

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