Demolition racing crash case gets no-cause verdict

By Thomas Franz
BridgeTower Media Newswires

DETROIT-Following an accident that occurred near the staging area of a "bump and run" demolition racing event at the county fairgrounds, an Alpena Circuit Court jury issued a no-cause verdict in Roznowki v. Johnson and Alpena County Agricultural Society, and MacNeill.

The case resulted from an accident that occurred Aug. 15, 2014.

Drivers were revving their engines in a grassy staging area just outside of the entrance to a dirt racetrack.

One of the drivers, Matthew Johnson, had his throttle stuck while revving the car's engine. His car started to move toward the opening of an emergency exit and struck the plaintiff.

The plaintiff sustained an ankle fracture and alleged chronic pain syndrome, said defense attorney Frederick C. Overdier, who was co-counsel with William J. Ewald, of Braun Kendrick.

"The plaintiff's theory against the promoter and the agricultural society was that there should have been more attention to safety in general," Overdier said.

The plaintiff alleged that the condition of the event grounds was negligent and allowed the driver to leave the confined staging area in an uncontrolled manner.

The agricultural society and promoter denied any unsafe conditions and argued the accident occurred because of an unforeseeable occurrence of a stuck throttle, which resulted in an accident proximately caused by the driver.

They also argued that the crash location was a nonpublic restricted area.

Overdier said the event promoter had a safety expert who does inspections for similar events.

"They've been doing this type of event in other county events for a long time, and they have a process for utilizing drivers who have experience, and they have a process for inspecting the vehicle," Overdier said. "The throttle wouldn't have been part of an inspection that could've been done. They do a visual inspection but don't take apart the vehicle. The promoter wouldn't know by a casual inspection that this could've happened."

The plaintiff dismissed the driver during trial proceedings. Overdier said it appeared the driver did what he could given the circumstances, but he would still be the one who was at fault for the accident from the standpoint of proximate cause.

"(The stuck throttle) was the most direct, proximate cause. There was a GoPro camera inside the vehicle, and the plaintiff used that during the presentation. That gave you a view of how this unfolded unexpectedly from the driver's standpoint," Overdier said.

Overdier added the key to the defense in the case was presenting the defendants as being knowledgeable and experienced in putting on these kind of events as safely as possible.

"The driver was aware of the nature of what kind of questions would come up at trial from both sides, and he testified in a way that demonstrated this was unforeseeable. He didn't know this was going to happen and didn't have any intention that something like this could occur, so sudden emergency was one of the theories presented," Overdier said.

Plaintiff's attorney Marc L. Shreeman declined to discuss this case.

Published: Thu, Mar 07, 2019