No matter your feelings towards the sport, anyone would be saddened to hear about the one death and nine injuries that occurred at the Pocono Raceway on August 5th. During the race, a storm front moved in and the resulting lightning hit multiple people in the stands and parking lot, according to The Associated Press.
The issue raised is whether the Raceway officials properly warned spectators or otherwise had a safe facility.
Owners and leaseholders of land that invite the public to their premises can be liable for certain harm that might befall a visitor. This type of liability is known as premises liability and affects any retail or event property owner.
This type of liability is based on the negligence theory of liability and basically puts a specific legal duty on landowners to make their property safe or to warn of potential dangers. Of course, this duty is the duty to take reasonable measures to make things safe. It does not require landowners to put visitors in safety suits when they step on your property.
Here, the question is whether officials at the Pennsylvania 400 warned spectators about the danger of the coming storm and whether the warning was timely enough. A warning was sent over Twitter and over the public address system.
Could Twitter actually be thought of as a reasonable measure to warn of an oncoming storm to people watching a car race?
This is a question for a jury, which would mean that they would have to be convinced that thousands of people at the race were all looking at Twitter during the event. It seems highly unlikely that so many people would be on Twitter when Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are racing right in front of you.
We will see if any premises liability lawsuits arise against Pocono Raceway from this death of a fan caused by lightning at a NASCAR race. If one does, it will probably turn on the adequacy of the warnings.
- Need a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer? (FindLaw)
- Property Owners' Legal Duty to Prevent Injury (FindLaw)
- Concrete Ceiling Falls on Woman: Premises Liability 101 (FindLaw's Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Pocono Race Lightning Strike Kills 1, Hurts 9 (Fox 29)