JOLIET, Ill. -- In response to an allegation that Kevin Ward Jr. was responsible for his own death when he was struck and killed by a car driven by Tony Stewart, Ward's parents insisted in a court filing Friday that the three-time Sprint Cup champion was to blame.
Kevin Ward Sr. and his wife, Pamela, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart for the death of their 20-year-old son in an Aug. 9, 2014, Empire Super Sprints race at Canandaigua (New York) Motorsports Park. They are seeking unspecified damages for their son's pain and suffering and the potential economic support he could have given them.
Stewart contends Ward, on foot after a crash that followed a battle for position, tried to make contact with Stewart's car and that he did not see Ward until "just prior" to his car striking Ward. He said in court filings that he did not know Ward was involved in a wreck and he didn't know who it was on the track at the time.
In the filing Friday, the Ward family cited Stewart's history of aggression on the racetrack to support their claim that Stewart drove in a reckless manner while the other drivers in the race were able to avoid their son.
"[Ward] was killed as a result of the malicious, reckless, intentional, and grossly negligent conduct of Defendant Stewart, who has a well-documented and rampant history of engaging in uncontrolled, vindictive and temperamental behavior on the race track, including, but not limited to, purposely and vengefully crashing into other race cars," the Ward parents' filing states.
The Wards also responded to the allegation that their son had used marijuana within five hours of the race.
"[The Wards] admit that a toxicology report exists that allegedly found Kevin A. Ward Jr. to have smoked marijuana within at least five hours of participating in the August 9, 2014 race," the filing states. "However, [the Wards] deny the validity, accuracy, and admissibility of said report."
There is no trial date set in the case, currently in federal court in Utica, New York, which covers the Ward family's hometown of Port Leyden. Stewart has requested, and the family will not contest, that the case be moved to federal court in Rochester, New York, but a judge still must approve the move.
In addition to denying any responsibility for Ward's death, Stewart seeks to have the lawsuit dismissed based on waivers Ward and his father, as car owner, signed indemnifying other participants of responsibility for injury. Ward's parents, in the filing Friday, contend that those waivers do not cover responsibility for malicious, intentional, reckless and grossly negligent acts.