Our last post covered the horrific crash that left around 30 spectators at the Daytona 500 with serious injuries after a safety barrier failed to keep debris out of the grandstand. This post will look at one of the big questions that legal experts are examining in the wake of this incident.
Of the thousands of fans who attended the Daytona 500, few probably took the time to review the paragraphs of tiny print on the back of their ticket. If they had, they would have seen a thorough and exhaustive chunk of legalese that purported to be an agreement between each ticket holder and the venue.
This agreement claims to waive all liability for any injuries - in other words, the venue can claim that each injured ticket holder accepted the risk of injury and promised in advance not to sue the company. Liability waivers like this are common at sports and recreation venues around the country - companies want to avoid premises liability cases.
It is not clear whether this waiver will prevent any of the victims from seeking compensation for their injuries. For starters, a waiver does not mean that the venue has no responsibility to protect its guests. The stadium still has to maintain fire exits and smoke detectors, for example - it only seems reasonable to expect it to maintain a safe fence between spectators and high-speed racecars.
The litigation around these spectators' injuries will likely look closely at what exactly the waiver covers. A reasonable interpretation would probably include things like twisted ankles from tripping on grandstand stairs - but not injuries from an accident that shredded the safety barrier and threw dangerous debris into the crowd.
Source: Reuters, "Lawyers weigh possible legal fallout of Daytona crash," Casey Sullivan, Feb. 25, 2013