LEGAL BATTLE LOOMS:The family of deceased racer Kevin Ward Jr has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tony Stewart (pictured here). Image: AP / John Bazemore
HOUSTON, Texas - The family of Kevin Ward Jr, who was struck and killed by fellow driver Tony Stewart during a sprint car race in 2014, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Nascar star, lawyers said.
Stewart, one of the biggest names in auto racing, fatally struck Ward during a non-Nascar race on Aug 9 2014 on a dimly lit part of the Canandaigua Motorsports Park track, Syracuse.
Stewart is the only named defendant in the lawsuit filed in the 5th Judicial District for the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Lowville, said lawyer Mark Lanier, adding that the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ward's parents, Kevin and Pamela.
'HOLD STEWART RESPONSIBLE'
The family said in a statement: "Our hope is that this lawsuit will hold Tony Stewart responsible for killing our son and show him there are real consequences when someone recklessly takes another person's life."
Stewart and Ward bumped cars during the race and the collision sent Ward into an outside retaining wall while Stewart remained in the race. Ward jumped from his car in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart during the ensuing caution period.
When Stewart's car came around on the next lap, Ward, while in the middle of the track, pointed at Stewart. As Stewart approached Ward, his car appeared to swerve, striking Ward and throwing him 15m.
Ward was pronounced dead at a hospital near the track.
The lawsuit said Stewart, a three-time champion of Nascar's Sprint Cup Series, wrongfully caused Ward's death by acting with, Lanier said, "wanton, reckless and malicious intent and negligence."
Stewart was cleared in September 2014 by a grand jury investigating the dirt-track crash.
Toxicology tests indicated that Ward was under the influence of marijuana the night of the incident, at levels "enough to impair judgment," Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo told a news conference about seven weeks after the accident.
Stewart, who sat out the next three Nascar races following the accident, would not comment on the lawsuit, his representatives said.