Kevin Ward Jr. family did file a wrongful death lawsuit Friday against NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. The Family feels that Tony Stewart struck and killed the 20-year-old driver under caution during a race. The lawsuit is claiming that Tony Stewart gunned his car as he drove by Ward, that caused it to slide and strike Kevin Ward with the right rear tire, tossing Ward in the air.
The suit claims that Stewart caused the accident that crashed Ward Jr.’s car initially, and citing his “unique race car and driving skills” and “extreme skill and control over his car” acted recklessly in revving his engine and not steering clear of Ward Jr. in the aftermath as other cars had. Ward Jr. died of blunt force trauma.
The suit does not state what the Ward family is seeking in damages. The suit contains four actions: wrongful death; terror, pain and suffering prior to death; intentional/reckless conduct; and gross negligence.
According to the release, neither the Ward family nor their attorneys will comment further.
Stewart-Haas Racing, where Stewart is a driver and co-owner, said it would not comment at this time. A NASCAR spokesman said the series will not comment.
The family has requested a jury trial.
On Aug. 9, 2014, Stewart and Ward were involved in an on-track incident that left Ward unable to continue in the Empire Super Sprints race. During the ensuing caution, Ward jumped out of his car and walked down the track’s surface to motion at Stewart. Stewart hit him in what he later called “100% an accident.”
Nearly seven weeks later, an Ontario County district attorney’s report stated that Ward Jr. was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the incident at a level high enough to impair judgement. A grand jury opted not to indict Stewart, who missed three races in the wake of the accident, including the event at Watkins Glen the following day.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told USA TODAY Sports via email that Ward Jr.’s toxicology and conduct after the accident do not necessarily discount the civil suit. The assessment of damages depend “on how much responsibility a jury might assign to each person.”
“I think that the case will come down to how the jury views the facts and the respective responsibility of the two people involved,” Tobias said. “My sense is that the case will probably settle.