YORK – York County District Judge James Stecker has dismissed a lawsuit in which the estate of a race car driver, who was killed at the race track at McCool Junction, was seeking damages from the track and the other driver involved in the crash.
On May 21, 2016, a showcase event was being held at the Junction Motor Speedway, which was organized by the Kansas Antique Racers.
Joe A. Haag of Lincoln was a participating driver in the antique racing class, driving a vintage race car.
Haag was involved in a crash during hot laps that evening, during which he sustained injuries during a rollover accident, which resulted in his death.
A lawsuit was filed in 2018 by representatives of Haag’s estate, against Junction Motor Speedway Inc. and Don McChesney, the driver of the other race car involved in that fatal crash.
A hearing in the matter was held on July 22 of this year and this past week, Judge Stecker issued his judgment in the matter.
In his judgment order, Judge Stecker acknowledged that Haag had signed a release and waiver of liability, assumption of risk and indemnity agreement with both the McCool race track and with the Kansas Antique Racers as part of his membership to that group.
Judge Stecker wrote, following that hearing and the presentation of evidence, that “Mr. Haag and Mr. McChesney had driven in similar showcase events at the same time at other race tracks prior to May 21, 2016. The race cars driven by Joseph Haag and Don McChesney were not of the same class. The race car driven by Don McChesney was a super modified race car. Mr. Haag was driving his vintage race car. Super modified race cars have a more powerful engine, substantially more safety equipment and was significantly heavier than the vintage race car driven by Joseph Haag.”
And the judge wrote further, “Junction Motor Speedway is a well-maintained dirt race track. The plaintiffs make no claim against Junction Motor Speedway for defective design, construction, management of maintenance of the track itself.”
Rather the argument regarded alleged negligence.
Judge Stecker wrote that Junction Motor Speedway argued that Haag had signed two different releases and waivers prior to participating as a driver in the exhibition race and the “decedent assumed the risk of death when he voluntarily participated in the exhibition race.” And McChesney argued the same regarding the releases and waivers, and that the plaintiffs offered no proof that McChesney operated his race car in a negligent, reckless or grossly negligent manner.
The plaintiffs had argued that there was negligence in operating different classed race cars at different speeds on the same track at the same time. But the judge said there was no factual basis provided that they were operating at different speeds and there was no factual support of claims that McChesney’s operation of his car was negligent or reckless.
“The evidentiary record establishes that Mr. Haag knew and appreciated the danger inherent to his participation in the showcase event, that he voluntarily exposed himself to the danger, and that as the proximate result of the danger, he sustained injuries. There are no annotated facts of the witnesses to the accident that relate to the speed or operation of Haag’s or McChesney’s vehicles at the time of the accident,” Judge Stecker said.
“Plaintiff argues that common sense was violated when vulnerable cars with the least safety equipment were permitted to be on the same track at the same time as cars with more safety equipment,” the judge continued in his order. “The plaintiff failed to provide facts as to how the presence of two cars with different safety equipment caused or contributed to the injuries incurred by Mr. Haag. The Plaintiff argues that Junction Motor Speedway has a non-delegable duty to ensure that racing is conducted safely. The Plaintiff however has filed to provide facts to indicate that the proximate cause of Mr. Haag’s injures are the result of speed, different safety equipment on the vehicles and vehicles from different classes on the track at the same time.”
The judge’s findings were in favor of the defendants, saying there was no evidence either McChesney or the Junction Motor Speedway were negligent in the circumstances leading to Haag’s death.
He also addressed the plaintiff’s claims they are entitled to damages for pre-death conscious pain and suffering – saying there was no evidence of that as well.
The plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed with prejudice.