A federal judge ruled Friday that the insurance carrier for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart does not have to defend or indemnify him in a lawsuit brought by the family of a driver who died after being struck by Stewart’s car during a race.
U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd ruled that Axis Insurance Co.’s policy with Stewart “unambiguously limited” the insurer’s liability to specific races.
The family of Kevin Ward Jr. is suing Stewart, claiming that he acted recklessly when he struck and killed the young driver in an open-wheel race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in August 2014.
Ward had exited his vehicle after a car-on-car bump with Stewart had sent Ward spinning into the wall lining the dirt track in upstate New York. Ward appeared to be yelling in the direction of Stewart’s car when he was struck and killed.
An Ontario County grand jury cleared Stewart of any criminal wrongdoing.
According to the decision, Stewart’s policy covered 105 “specified events.” The judge wrote that it is “undisputed” that the sprint car event in which Ward was killed was not one of those specified in the policy. Attorneys for Stewart had countered that certain language in the policy supported their position that coverage was warranted.
Stewart will now have to bear the costs of his defense as the lawsuit continues.
[Axis issued three policies to Stewart: primary commercial general liability (with $1 million each occurrence and $2 million aggregate limits), commercial excess liability ($4 million) and an auto policy ($1 million).
Axis argued that its combined liability insurance policies did not cover claims of one race car driver versus another, the specific race in New York where the accident occurred, or the race car Stewart was driving.]
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