JUNE 22, 2005
The dangers of American law
The FIA has ordered seven teams to appear before the World Council next week on various charges relating to what happened at Indianapolis on Sunday. There are, it seems, dangers in this course of action which could trigger law suits in the United States. It should be pointed out that this suggestion did not come from any of the teams or manufacturers but rather from a reader with a knowledge of American law. We are not qualified to know whether this is right or wrong but it is something which lawyers on both sides will have to consider before the World Council meets.
There could be serious legal implications in punishing the teams as it may open up the possibility of the FIA becoming entangled in laws relating to "reckless endangerment", an offence of "recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death to another person". The key point in this is that the law does not rely simply on what actually happened but also on what MIGHT have happened. Punishing the teams for not racing could therefore leave the FIA open to charges of reckless endangerment as the teams made it very clear that "every possibility for the race to go ahead in a safe manner was explored". Nine of the 10 teams were prepared to run with a chicane. The FIA rejected the idea and suggested that teams should run with artificial speed limits in Turn 13 - a situation for which we can think of no precedent.
A decision against the teams might also constitute grounds for other law suits because a punishment would tacitly admit that those involved did not fulfill their obligations and that could result in damage claims.
The frightening concept in all of this is that American courts can indulge in huge damage payments.
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