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FEBRUARY 13, 2006

An important legal question

Lawyers in motor racing are watching with interest to see the outcome of a lawsuit in the United States were the widow of a track marshal is suing the International Speedway Corporation, claiming that the Daytona International Speedway (which is owned by ISC) did not take "reasonable safeguards" in an ultrahazardous activity. The ISC is arguing that the case should be dismissed because racing is not legally defined as being ultrahazardous and if the case is won by the Weaver Family, it will alter the legal status of racing in the United States and perhaps further afield. The ISC says that the question is not whether the activity was ultrahazardous but whether the speedway took reasonable precautions to avoid the accident that killed Mr Weaver.

The legal definition of ultrahazardous is an action or process which is so inherently dangerous that the person or entity conducting the activity is strictly liable for any injury caused by the activity. The ISC is arguing that stock car racing is dangerous but it is not ultrahazardous because the dangers can be largely eliminated with the use of proper procedures. Declaring the sport to be ultrahazardous would mean that the ISC would be liable for any and all injuries at its speedways, no matter what measures it takes to protect those taking part.

Roy Weaver (44) was killed while clearing wreckage at Daytona during an IPOWER race in February 2004. Weaver was working on the opposite side of the circuit from the scene of an accident and was hit by a driver who was driving quickly to catch up with the field, which was assembled behind a pace car.

The case has received a great deal of publicity in the United States as Weaver's widow and children took the decision to take part in the CBS reality TV hit show "The Amazing Race", competing for a prize of $1m in the course of 2005.