Do race track waivers matter?
Keigwin’s At The Track is a track rental business. They operate at Thunderhill Raceway, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna-Seca and Buttonwillow Raceway. Lance Keigwin started the company and operating it for nearly two decades, lawsuit free.
In 2015, he sold off the business to Szymon Dziadzia. In March 2016, they opened shop for their very first track day. He opened the pit area and the twisty bits of Laguna Seca.
In the very first day of operation, Daniel Kim missed the apex, overshot the exit and ventured into the California sand. He was able to keep it straight while venturing off-road. However, the dry ground featured on the off-track excursion also featured un-level ground and a sandbag used to direct water.
Kim hit the sandbag and was thrown from his bike. The track day rider suffered injuries including a broken femur. He located the law firm of Leiff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein he assigned lawyer Sarah London to the case. Together they went after the new operator of Keigwin’s At The Track.
Watch the video of the bike accident at Laguna-Seca below.
Szymon Dziadzia was first notified of this via a letter. That letter requested $15 million on behalf of Mr. Kim. The company’s insurance provider Naughton Insurance refused to pay the request. A new letter arrived requesting half of the initial amount. Keigwin’s At The Track had insurance coverage totaling amounts of $5 million. Naughton is no longer affiliated with Keigwin’s track day business.
From there, the lawsuit began. The track isn’t actually owned by any one person. Instead, it’s owned by Monterey County. Keigwin’s, Monterey County and the non-profit organization that manages the track are all listed as defendants in the case.
Initially, the plaintiff attempted to add Mazda to the defendants list. They were only the entitlement sponsor of the track at the time. When the case first went to count, Judge Thomas W. Wills threw out that portion of the lawsuit noting they had nothing to do with track operations as the sponsor. An appeal of that was filed and is still to be heard.
Mr. Kim and his lawyers are suing on the grounds of ‘gross negligence’. They feel the sandbag shouldn’t have been there.
Sandbags are there in the case of sudden rain showers. At road courses, they race in the rain. Those sandbags prevent water from creating rivers that run across the racing surface. You can drive or ride on a wet track. But, when the water becomes deep than the tire tread, the tires essentially float over the water.
“I see a lot of things,” Dustin Coyner, the track day manager told Revzilla. “He turned in early. He missed the apex. At one point in the corner it looked like he had the correct lean angle but then he suddenly changed angle. He didn’t finish the corner even though he could have, and he ran off the track. Had the dude just stayed on the riding surface, on the trajectory he was on before, he’d have been fine.”
How about that waiver?
Every track I’ve ever been to has them. Well, that still doesn’t stop people from suing. In case of The Ward Family vs Tony Stewart waivers also became an issue. However, in that case it was more centered around track and series waivers being different. In this case, they are essentially ignoring the waiver.
“I don’t think even Daniel Kim understands the implications,” said Coyner. “It could be the beginning of the end for the sport as a whole.”
“They tried to settle with me for a couple of million,” Szymon said. “But I said, ‘No way!’ I could close my business tomorrow, it wouldn’t cost me a dollar, and I could re-open the next day, but some other guy, like Kim, would sue me. And eventually insurance companies would say ‘Fuck these guys. We’re not going to insure any track days, any racing.’ ”
“I’m not fighting for Keigwin’s, I’m not fighting for myself; I’m fighting for everybody, because tomorrow you can sue Zoom Zoom, you can sue PTT, you can sue Pridmore, California Superbike… If we lose, it will open the door for all these scumbags to blame everybody for their crash, except themselves.”
They attempted to have the case thrown out of court. However, the judge ruled that the case would go to trial. It’s due to be heard in May 2018.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help Save the Track Days! So far, they have raised $15,000 of the $50,000 goal.
The GoFundMe page offers a message from Szymon Dziadzia:
“As riders, we all know that our passion for motorcycles can be dangerous. Two wheels, coupled with high speeds sometimes results in crashing. We know this, we accept this and the risks involved. Some of us, in the pursuit of better skills and the next level in our passion for riding, take it to the track.”
“A track day is a platform to extend our skillset in a non-competitive environment, the track day provider provides us the opportunity to get out on a race track and hone our skills at our own pace without the rigors and preparation of racing, track days are not race events.”
As the consumer of track days, we agree to show up with a mechanically sound motorcycle, leathers/safety gear and an understanding of the dangers that may lay ahead. Everyone in the track day community agrees that the track is a “no-fault” environment, we understand and accept that there is the potential for crashing and injury.”
“Two years ago, a rider came out to a Keigwins’s track day at the world-renowned Laguna Seca Raceway. In his pursuit of honing his skill set, he had an “off track experience” as we refer to in jest in the track day community – he ran off the track surface and crashed.”
“Now, this may sound like a fundraiser to help him with his medical bills… unfortunately, it is not.”
“After “unnamed rider” signed up for the track day, signed the accident waiver holding harmless the track day provider, provided his medical insurance and emergency contacts, he then entered the closed course at his own risk.”
“During the course of the track day event, he had an accident while pushing his personal limits and ran off the track, in doing so he impacted water retention sandbags placed far from the track surface by Laguna Seca maintenance staff and crashed.”
“The race track places these sandbags in key locations – ie. hillsides, water flow areas, etc to prevent water run-off from entering the track surface. The results of his accident have led him to file a lawsuit against the track day provider that spans into the millions.”
‘We’re asking for your help in covering the legal fees to stand up against what is essentially an assault on all track day riders’ ability to get out on a track without having to pursue actual racing.”
How does this affect you?
“If he is successful in his lawsuit against Keigwins’s at the track day provider, that opens the door for anyone injured at a track day to sue the provider because they weren’t able to get through a track day without crashing. It opens the door to a flood of lawsuits that will drive insurance up for ALL track day providers and opens the door to the very real possibility that track day providers will have to double/triple their prices or risk going out of business. ”
“The owner of Keigwins’s WILL NOT settle out of court and pay a claim that isn’t the responsibility of the track day organizer, this sets a national precedent and puts us all at risk of losing track days and/or seeing prices rise to an unmanageable level for all.”
“We have attorneys who ride who are willing to help, volunteers willing to help with legal paperwork, expert testimony witnesses donating time, riders willing to show up in Court and be a presence – this is a team effort to protect our passion!”
“We need your help as well.If you ride, if you live for that 2-wheel life, if you love the freedom that comes on two wheels, whether you ride track or not, track days are in jeopardy and need your help – join the team and help fight to protect our passion.”
Please donate what you can.
Every little bit helps!!
Any money raised that isn’t used for attorney/court/filing fees will be donated to the motorcycle based safety charity – RRW Action Fund (http://www.roadracingworld.com/actionfund/ ) in all of our honor.
Owner of Keigwins at The Track