Tony Stewart Makes Unexpected Change In ‘Wrongful Death’ Lawsuit

Mark Hames / AP File Photo

Even though he’s retired from the sport, it seems that there are still a few loose ends he’s trying to tie up and one of them is this long legal matter.

Stemming from an incident in 2014 involving a fatal sprint car accident, this lawsuit has seen many twists and turns since being brought against the famed NASCAR driver.

The tragic incident which resulted in the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. happened during a sprint car race in Canandaigua, New York after Ward spun out and exited his vehicle. Tony Stewart was coming around the track toward the stalled car when, as video shows, Ward began gesturing at Stewart’s car. Moments later, he was struck by the right rear wheel of Stewart’s vehicle and thrown 25 feet across the track.

In 2015, a federal civil lawsuit was filed by Ward’s family when a grand jury decided not to indict Stewart on manslaughter charges. This civil lawsuit has continued in the year that has passed, with varying bumps occurring.

Not long after the filing, Stewart and his insurance company disagreed on his coverage status for the event and the insurance company refused to cover Stewart’s defense costs and refused to pay any settlements for judgements entered against him.

The insurer, Axis Insurance Company, claimed that they weren’t obligated to provide coverage because his insurance binder did not specifically include the Empire Super Sprints series of races, and stated that the race in question was not listed as a covered event.

A federal judge overseeing the matter of coverage handed down a ruling that declared Stewart fully responsible for the attorney’s fees and any costs from judgements entered against him for the attached civil lawsuit from Ward’s family.

It was expected that the civil suit would then move forward following the judge’s decision to side with Axis Insurance, but instead, Stewart’s legal team filed an appeal of the judge’s choice to rule against Stewart.

On January 4th, 2017, Stewart’s team of attorneys working on the case filled an immediate withdrawal of the appeal, suggesting that perhaps the civil suit will now move forward, however – as points out, Stewart has the option to re-file the appeal until January 30th.

There was no explanation listed for reasoning behind the withdrawal.

As of now, the Ward family’s “wrongful death” civil suit remains filed in federal court with a status labeled as “pending” – likely awaiting the decision from this appeal.

Without the insurance company backing him, Stewart will be on the hook for paying his legal team and solely liable for any civil judgement should the Ward family prevail.

Since the initial incident, Stewart had steadfastly claimed his innocence and was backed by the Orange County, New York District Attorney, Michael Tantillo when he was exonerated.

What is your opinion of the lawsuit?