On August 7, 2015 at 2:43 PM the family of Kevin Ward, Jr. filed Civil Index Number CA2015-000280 with the Supreme Court of Lewis County in rural Lowville, New York against Anthony Wayne Stewart. Many have questioned the timing of the filing, since the incident in question was just two days shy of its one year anniversary. Some speculated that the Ward Family may have wanted to take advantage of the additional public attention due to the fact that Stewart, the plaintiff, was in nearby Watkins Glen for the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup road race for the weekend.
While I certainly cannot read the collective mind of the Ward Family, it may have more to do with the summonsing process. In New York, a filer has three years from the date of an incident to file a civil suit. If the summons is delivered within the State of New York, the plaintiff has 20 days to reply to the summons, otherwise, the plaintiff has 30 days to reply.
With that piece of knowledge, we can assume that Tony was served the summons on either Saturday, August 8th, or Sunday, the 9th. Therefore, a response will need to be prepared and filed by Tony’s legal team on or about the 28th. A settlement prior to this date is an option as well.
Based on this August 14th interview with CBS News, the parents of Kevin Ward, Jr. are adamant, they want justice for their son. When presented with the two major facts in this case, the Ward’s still blame Stewart. Mrs. Ward said,
“I wish he has never gotten out of the car, I really do, but I also acknowledge the fact that if Tony would have stayed low on the track and not gunned his engine and headed for my son, my son would still be here.”
Mrs. Ward certainly chose her words carefully. There was no acceptance of responsibility, only recognition that he got out of the car. Not that he shouldn’t have, not that it was wrong, against the track rules or anything of that nature. Only that she wishes he never got out. The rest of her quote highlights what we could expect as the focal points of their argument in the civil case; their belief that Tony purposefully went high, gunned his engine and headed for their son.
When asked about the marijuana in her son’s system, Mrs. Ward refutes the findings of the official investigation, “I do not believe my son was impaired.” Do they have some evidence that has not been made public that can negate the findings of the toxicology reports? Are they hinting at misconduct on the part of Ontario County? I can think of no other way they can make these findings go away.
These two major points; their son exiting his vehicle under caution and pointing at Tony’s car and the other, the fact that the official investigation found marijuana in their son’s system, enough to be determined to be “judgement impaired,” were most likely the key findings, along with the evaluation of the video of the incident, that lead to no criminal charges being levied against Tony Stewart.
Mr. Ward concluded with interview saying, “There is no doubt he (Stewart) knew what he was doing and it was Tony’s car that revved that motor.”
Series and Track Rules for 2014
The complaint filed in this civil suit, which, we might add, demands for a jury trial, lists 55 factual allegations I’ll addressed in a few paragraphs. We have learned that the sprint cars were all equipped with one-way radios allowing race officials to communicate with drivers. One question we were able to answer is whether or not the 2014 Eastern Sprint Series Rulebook explicitly stated that drivers would be penalized for exiting a vehicle under caution. It does not. But it does clearly address the use of narcotics.
C.4 A violation of any rule relating to abusive conduct, intoxicants or narcotics and unauthorized contact with track officials may be subject to immediate suspension without a warning.
They also address “rough riding”:
C.5 A driver determined to be rough riding may be black flagged and/or immediately suspended and is subject to a loss of up to 100 points per infraction. He/she is also subject to being placed in the scratch position for a designated number of A-Main races not to exceed 2 races per infraction.
We also found the Canandaigua Motorsports Park’s 2015 track rules. Under Procedural Rules:
- No drinking of alcohol or ingestion of any intoxicants by any participants allowed at any time before or during the racing program, or any evidence there of by any driver, owner or crew member.
- Any driver involved in an accident, spin, or has a mechanical failure on the track MUST stay in their car until the Safety Crew arrives. If there is imminent danger of fire or leaking fluids you may exit the car and stand as close to the car as possible. If you exit your car you will be penalized.
Yet, we have no way of knowing if these rules were added for the 2015 season or if they were indeed in effect for 2014. Hopefully this is something that Stewart’s legal team can determine.
Reading through the complaint, there are items that the Ward’s state as fact that might be more opinion than fact.
No. 7: This item discusses the rules that all drivers agree to prior to racing focusing on exactly how drivers are supposed to respond to a yellow flag. While it goes into detail about drivers needing to go either down low or up high to avoid a disabled vehicle, it conveniently does not mention that drivers are required to stay in their vehicles which, we are told, is always mentioned in the drivers’ meeting regardless of the series.
No. 13: “During the aforesaid final race on August, 9, 2014, Tony Stewart killed Kevin Ward, Jr.”
Did Tony Stewart cause the death of Kevin Ward, Jr.? Based on the fact that criminal charges were not issued for Stewart, I have an issue with this declaration. I and others doubt that Tony even saw him.
No. 18: “While the race was under a caution, Kevin Ward, Jr. exited his vehicle and made his way a short distance down the track on foot. While the race was under a caution flag, 13 other cars passed Ward on the low side of the track before Stewart made his way all around the track to the point where he was approaching Kevin Ward, Jr. – and 6 cars safely passed Ward while standing on the track.”
Was Ward “standing” on the track? I don’t think his feet ever stopped moving.
No. 19: “ Unlike the other race car drivers who had just passed Kevin A. Ward, Jr., instead of going low on the track per regulations of the event, Stewart came up the track directly toward Kevin Ward, Jr.”
This issue was clearly addressed in the press conference by Ontario County DA Michael Tantillo on September 24, 2014. Tantillo said, “The videos did not demonstrate any aberrational driving by Tony Stewart until the point of impact with Kevin Ward.” It is worth mentioning that there was also a video, Tantillo mentions, that was the track video, which he stated was of better quality than the amateur video that most of us saw.
No. 20: “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.”
No. 22: “Upon information and belief, all other drivers who passed by Ward while he was standing on the track, easily were able to avoid Ward.”
Again, Ward was not standing on the track, he was actually moving even closer to on-coming traffic than when the previous six cars past. He was waiting for Stewart and as Stewart’s car neared, Ward moved even closer. Some even feel that Ward grabbed the wing of Stewart’s car.
In some later declarations of fact in the summons, we start to see the Ward Family insinuate that Kevin was financially responsible for his parents.
No. 39: “Prior to his death, Kevin Ward, Jr. was an able bodied man who devoted himself to the welfare and comfort of his family, who contributed substantially to the comfort, support and well being of his adult parents, who worked regularly for his father’s business – and who, but for being killed, would have one day taken over his father’s business.”
According to Kevin Ward, Jr.’s obituary, he was employed at his dad’s company, Westward Painting, in the roles of “head mechanic and painter.” Junior worked for Senior, not the other way around. So the argument that he contributed to their support is misleading. Unless the Ward’s can prove that Junior handled the family finances, paid the bills and his paycheck was vital to their day-to-day survival, this is a distortion if not outright lie. According to a records search, Westward Painting was started in 1992-93 and Kevin Ward, Sr. is the sole proprietor; Kevin, Jr. wasn’t even born yet. Unless the Ward’s can prove that Kevin, Jr. was the only one with the skills to be head mechanic and painter and that the business could never be sold or that no other member of the Ward Family was capable of taking over the business, this is not true at all.
The declarations go on to mention much of what we have all read in the past year, the Ward Family’s insistence that Tony’s behavior is what should be in question and no one else’s. There is absolutely no mention of Ward, Jr.’s impaired judgment or drug use or even a hint that he played a role in his own death.
After reading through this complaint, now, more than ever, I would like to see Tony’s legal team respond to this complaint with their own list of declarations of fact. The Ward Family has said repeatedly they want justice for their son. I have looked through a whole series of synonyms for this word, and no where did I see the word “revenge.” Unfortunately, I think the Ward Family, confused by their pain, are not seeing the fine line between the two.