Wrongful death lawsuit vs. Tony Stewart assigned to federal judge

The wrongful death lawsuit filed against Tony Stewart by the parents of Kevin Ward Jr. was assigned to U.S. District Judge David Hurd on Monday after the Sprint Cup driver asked Friday for the case to be adjudicated in federal court rather than New York state court.

Ward family attorney Mark Lanier said Tuesday that he doesn't plan to challenge the removal and expects the case to continue in federal court. The Ward family seeks unspecified damages related to their son's suffering, death and their own loss of economic support and services from their son.

Ward's parents, Kevin and Pamela Ward, filed the wrongful death lawsuit Aug. 7, claiming that Stewart's actions were reckless and grossly negligent in the death of their 20-year-old son Aug. 9, 2014, during an Empire Super Sprints race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

Kevin Ward Jr. had gotten out of his car following a crash and approached Stewart's car on foot while the cars continued to circle the track under caution. Stewart's car struck Ward, who was pronounced dead 45 minutes later.

Stewart has said the tragedy was "100 percent an accident," and a grand jury decided in September not to criminally charge Stewart. The family alleges that Stewart purposely gunned his engine under caution and did not operate his car in a safe manner. Ward, according to the Ontario County (N.Y.) district attorney, had enough marijuana in his system to influence his actions.

Stewart is scheduled to file his response to the lawsuit by Friday and an initial scheduling conference is set for Oct. 8.