Tony Stewart’s attorney moves wrongful death lawsuit to federal court

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Tony Stewart’s attorney moved the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Kevin Ward Jr.’s parents out of New York state court and into federal court.

The action was submitted Friday. The filing justified the move to federal court because the Ward family lives in New York and Stewart’s residence is in Indiana. The filing by Stewart’s attorney also states that they expect the Ward family to seek more than $75,000 in damages. The Ward family has not specified an amount it seeks.

The case moves to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. Judge David Hurd was assigned the case.

Ward’s attorney, Mark Lanier, told NASCAR Talk that there are no plans to challenge the move to federal court.

The Ward family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart on Aug. 7 in New York state court, seeking a jury trial. The lawsuit was filed nearly a year after Ward died after he was struck by Stewart’s car during a sprint car race Aug. 9, 2014 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. Ward was 20.

Stewart and Ward had been racing together when Ward wrecked. Ward exited his car during the caution and walked down the track as cars drove by. Stewart’s car struck Ward.

The lawsuit states: “As Stewart’s car approached Ward, who was standing on the track Stewart climbed up, gunned his engine, causing his 700-horsepower vehicle to slide and strike Ward with his right rear tire, crushing Ward and flinging his body an estimated 25 feet down the track.’’

Stewart, who has not publicly commented on the lawsuit, told The Associated Press in Sept. 2014 that the incident was “100 percent an accident.’’ He reaffirmed that in a Sept. 29 media session at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Michael Tantillo, Ontario County District Attorney, said after the 23-member grand jury decided not to charge Stewart last September that toxicology levels indicated that Ward was under the influence of marijuana “enough to impair judgment” at the time of the accident.

Stewart’s attorney still have to submit a response to the lawsuit in the coming days. A status and scheduling conference is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 8 via teleconference with Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks

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