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Fans sue NASCAR, Daytona Speedway claiming injuries from crash debris, 'toxic fluid'

The Steuben Courier Advocate - 12/19/2017

DAYTONA BEACH - A father and son who say they were struck by debris and "toxic fluid" when a race car went airborne and careened into the catch fence during the 2015 Coke Zero 400 has sued, alleging they were not properly protected from rocketing race cars.

Wayne VanPatten, 77, and John VanPatten, 46, both of Bradenton, filed the lawsuits in Circuit Court in Volusia County against International Speedway Corp., Daytona International Speedway and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, better known as NASCAR.

The father and son were sitting in Level 3, Section 366, Row 12 at the Speedway on July 6, 2015, watching the Coke Zero 400 when they were hit by debris from Austin Dillon's race car, the lawsuit states.

Dillon's No. 3 Chevrolet went airborne and crashed into the catch fence on the last lap of the race. The rain-delayed race started late the previous day.

The crash spewed debris into the stands, hitting the VanPattens, according to the lawsuits filed on Dec. 4. The wrecked race car also discharged "toxic liquid" which struck Wayne VanPatten in the arm and John VanPatten in the face. John VanPatten "ingested" some of the "toxic liquid," the lawsuit states.

Andrew Booth, a spokesman for Daytona International Speedway, declined to comment per the racetrack's policy.

"We don't comment on pending litigation," he said.

The VanPattens suffered both physical injuries and mental anguish and required hospitalization and other care according to the suit which says damages exceed $15,000, which is the amount complaints must exceed to be filed in Circuit Court.

VanPatten is represented by Martin Jaffe of Morgan & Morgan. Jaffe declined to comment on why the lawsuit was not filed until now.

Jaffe described the toxic fluid as "gas and liquids associated with the crash." He declined to discuss what was the precise debris that hit the VanPattens.

The lawyer wouldn't say whether the VanPattens were fans of NASCAR and if they attended races regularly.

The two lawsuits allege the Speedway and NASCAR were negligent by not installing "safe barriers" to protect spectators, failing to maintain a safe distance between fans and the track, encouraging pack racing which increases the risk of collision, failing to install and or construct catch fences that assure debris does not strike fans and failing to adequately warn spectators.

The lawsuits also states that the Speedway should have known about the "unreasonable risk of injury" to spectators because of prior occurrences of "race cars becoming airborne at high speeds within a few feet of invitees' seats."

The wreck injured 13 fans, track officials said at the time. Eight declined medical attention, four were treated at the track and one was transported to Halifax Health Medical Center.

William Fulton of Orlando sued NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. on July 18, 2016. Fulton was seated in row 6 when Dillon's car crashed. The lawsuit said Fulton was struck in the head and shoulder while trying to shield his wife from the debris. Fulton was represented by David Beers of Beers & Gordon in Oviedo. Fulton settled and agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on Sept. 23, 2016. The settlement is confidential, Beers wrote in an email on Friday.

Dillon's crash came two years after Kyle Larson smashed his Chevrolet into the catch fence during the DRIVE4COPD 300, the day before the Daytona 500 in 2013. That wreck injured more than 30 people in the grandstand. One of the injured was Allen Davis, 41, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, who was hit in the head by shrapnel which fractured his skull and injured his brain. Davis sued NASCAR and later settled for an undisclosed amount.

Nine race fans injured during the 2013 crash and represented by Morgan & Morgan settled with the race track.

After Larson's wreck and before Dillon's, NASCAR redesigned and reinforced the fencing.

http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20171217/NEWS/171218621

 
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