Daytona 500 Crash Update: Victims Consider Litigation

In the week that has passed since a massive pileup at the Daytona 500 injured around 30 spectators, a number of legal experts have weighed in on one big issue that might interfere with their lawsuits: liability waivers.

Like most sports and recreation venues, the Daytona racetrack includes a detailed and complex paragraph of language on the back of its ticket. Those guests who take the time to parse through this fine print will read that they have apparently agreed to waive any liability against the racetrack or its owners – no matter what goes wrong. These waivers become a factor in many premises liability cases.

Although venues and sports leagues present these provisions as a binding contract that prohibits any attempt to sue them, the reality is far less clear. Courts in Florida and around the nation have taken different approaches to similar clauses – some of them treat fine print waivers as legal contracts and others ignore them as boilerplate.

No matter how a court views waivers, these lawsuits are likely to focus on the safety barrier at the Daytona track. This could complicate the analysis of this waiver. For example, the plaintiffs could argue that while they agreed to assume many normal risks of watching a game, they did not agree to sit behind an ineffective safety fence. That argument might be just one way around the liability waivers in similar cases.

Source: Florida Today, “Injured Daytona race fans explore legal options,” Kyle Hightower, Feb. 27, 2013