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Lawsuit Filed in Speedway Death

September 11, 1998

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) _ The estate of one of three fans killed at Michigan Speedway during a race has filed an $11 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the track.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Lenawee County Circuit Court on behalf of the family of Kenneth D. Fox of Lansing, Mich., by lawyer James Graves.

Graves alleges Michigan Speedway was negligent when a July 26 crash caused a tire and other debris to fly into the stands during the U.S. 500 race. Fox, 38, was killed, along with Michael Tautkus, 49, and Sheryl Laster, 40, both of Milan, Mich. Six others received minor injuries.

The Indy-car driven by Adrian Fernandez hit the wall, launching a tire, wheel and part of the suspension over the fence at about 200 mph.

The three victims took the brunt of the impact. Two died instantly and another soon thereafter. It was the deadliest day in the track’s 31-year history.

The wall was 4 feet high and topped with an 11-foot fence that angles over the track to deflect debris. Before the last race of the season in August, the speedway extended the catch fence to 15 feet.

The lawsuit alleges Michigan Speedway officials knew or should have known the wall and fence were inadequate and that such an accident was possible with open-wheel race cars, The Jackson Citizen Patriot reported Friday.

Graves noted the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, following a similar accident in 1987 that killed a fan, modified its track retaining wall by installing a safety cabling and catch-fencing system that stands about 19 feet, 8 inches.

The lawsuit seeks actual damages in excess of $1 million and exemplary damages in excess of $10 million because of the speedway’s alleged gross negligence and reckless disregard.

Michigan Speedway officials on Friday declined comment.

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