A new ruling in the years-long legal battle after the death of a 20-year-old driver on a dirt track that involved NASCAR front-runner, Tony Stewart, says that the family’s lawsuits are allowed to go ahead.
According to a new ESPN report, U.S. District Judge David Hurd shot down Stewart’s motion to dismiss the civil wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by the Ward family. In the new court finding, the judge ruled that the racing liability waivers signed by Ward and his father do not provide any legal protection for Stewart.
This new ruling means that Stewart could be held liable for the death of Ward and may mean that he must undergo a public jury trial in the civil case. Stewart was cleared of criminal wrongdoing when a grand jury refused to indict him in the matter.
20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. was killed on the dirt sprint car track at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York after Stewart’s car struck him on August 9th, 2014. Ward was found to have been under the influence of marijuana at the time of the incident.
Stewart’s attorneys had sought to have portions of the case dismissed and filed motions to support their request, but the judge’s new ruling states that the civil case can move forward as-is. There are several possible outcomes to the case, which include a jury ruling against Stewart, ruling on Stewart’s behalf, and an out-of-court settlement between the parties.
NBC Sports states that there’s also “the possibility that a jury could ultimately decide to dismiss the suit because Ward had an “assumption of risk” when he climbed out of his race car and proceeded down the racetrack and into the path” of Stewart’s car. The track was operating under a caution flag at the time of the crash.