Insurance firm: Not liable in Tony Stewart lawsuit

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Axis Insurance Company has filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, stating that it should not be held responsible for damages Tony Stewart might have to pay in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Kevin Ward Jr.’s family.

The Ward family filed the lawsuit Aug. 7 and seeks unspecified damages. Ward, 20, was struck by Stewart’s car and died Aug. 9, 2014 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. Ward exited his car after hitting the wall while racing Stewart and walked down the track toward Stewart’s car during the caution.

Ward was hit by Stewart’s car and died. Stewart stated in court documents that he did not see Ward “until just prior to contact.’’ The Ward’s family attorney called Stewart’s account “appalling.’’

A grand jury did not indict Stewart on criminal charges last year. A toxicology report showed that Ward had smoked marijuana within five hours of racing. In a recent court filing, Ward’s parents “deny the validity, accuracy and admissibility” of the report.

Axis Insurance Company stated in court documents submitted last week to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York that it issued a primary commercial general liability policy to Tony Stewart Racing for Jan. 1, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015. Axis states that the policy has limits of $1 million for each occurrence and $2 million general aggregate.

Axis states that the policy contains a Participant Legal Liability – Motorsports section. It contains the following exclusion:

“This insurance does not apply to claims or actions brought by one racing vehicle driver against another racing vehicle driver.’’

Axis also states that its policy is limited to the events specifically listed by Tony Stewart Racing.

Those events listed were for 65 World of Outlaws races, 30 USAC Sprint Car races and 10 USAC Silver Crown races.

The company notes that Stewart’s incident took place in an Empire Super Sprints race – one that is not specifically listed to be covered.

Axis states that its other portions of the policy also do not cover liability in this case.

“Given the facts as held in the Underlying Action, Stewart’s admissions, and the actual facts concerning the Incident, there is no coverage pursuant to the terms, conditions, endorsements, and exclusions of the AXIS Primary Policy, AXIS Excess Policy, or AXIS Auto Policy,” court documents state. “AXIS has no duty to defend or to indemnify Stewart with respect to the Underlying Action.’’

A conference with Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Dec. 21.