The thirty fans injured in last week’s second tier race crash the day before the Daytona 500 may have a legal remedy for their injuries.
The general rule for fans injured as spectators in a sporting event is that the fan assumes the obvious risks inherent in a sport. These would include getting hit by a puck at a hockey game or a fly ball at a baseball game. We’ve all seen objects come out of the field of play and fly into the stands. It’s a risk we are aware exists when we go to a professional sporting event.
But the injured NASCAR fans may be in a different position. NASCAR was aware of the risk created when a car traveling around a track at speeds sometimes in excess of 200 mph careens out of control. In 2009, a crash at a NASCAR track in Talladega, AL which launched a car into the catch fence injuring several fans caused NASCAR to recognize the need to engineer a safer fence. Once NASCAR recognized the hazard sufficient to require a fence, the fence they build should be sufficiently strong to stop debris as well as an entire racecar.
This issue of foreseeability is what lawyers representing the injured fans are hoping will trump the “contract” on the back of every sports ticket which limits the liability of promoters for injuries caused to fans from objects or players. Having recognized the risk of debris, or even a car, flying into the stands, and having taken the step of installing a catch fence, that fence must be strong enough to prevent the injury it was intended to prevent. To install a fence that is insufficient to prevent injury is negligent.
Usually sports promoters try to make some accommodation to injured fans short of full compensation for their injury to preserve good will. But the injured fans from Daytona may be entitled to assert the full force of liability against NASCAR.