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Another Lawsuit, this one against Williams Grove


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My friend Jeremy Elliott who writes the Patriot News in Pa. sent me a link to this story on a lawsuit between John Westrbook, who was paralyzed at the facility and Williams Grove Speedway.

 

Here is the link: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/12/williams_grove_john_westbrook.html#incart_river

 

 

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I feel terrible for the driver but racing is a dangerous sport and the track can never plan for every situation.  If the driver had felt that the lack of a catch fence in turns 1 & 2 was a safety issue then he shouldnt have competed.  I dont think the track is responsible but I also feel that the paralyzed driver should receive assistance from somewhere... crappy situation.

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Perhaps he would have been better off hitting a catch fence and bouncing back onto the track to get t-boned by another car?  You can look at this 2 ways, maybe a fence would have been good in this case, maybe it would have been even worse.

 

Racing is dangerous, plain and simple. No matter what a track does to make it safer, there will always be injuries and occasionally much worse. People will try to sue no matter what was in place, finding another reason for the track to be at fault.

 

Not saying this person should not be entitled to something, but flat out blaming the track in this case is, in my opinion, not right.

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The Westbrook crash at the Grove really was a terrible tragedy. Just some quick background on John Westbrook for those not familiar with him: He looked to be on his way to being one of central PA's future stars prior to being injured in 2008. In his first year of 410 racing, Westbrook won twice at Port Royal and once at Williams Grove (a $4,000 to win race). He was also Rookie of the Year in the 410s at the Grove.

 

A couple of other boards discussing this topic have included various posters calling Westbrook a scumbag or similar names for the lawsuit. I have mixed feelings over the situation. The guy was 23 years old when he was paralyzed for life. Of course, a racer knows the risks every time he goes out on the track. But no matter how much you may love racing, I don't think anyone really knows how they would react in Westbrook's situation.

 

I do pretty much agree with one of the comments following the article that Mike Mallett posted. Does a racetrack (and their insurance carrier) really want to gamble on a jury trial against a man left paralyzed for life? I don't know the answer to that.

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Boy do I ever have an opinion on this.

 

Just like everyone else, I feel bad for this guy too. What irks me though, is that race car drivers have lost touch with reality that sometimes shit happens and death or serious injury CAN happen. Saying that putting a catch fence up to prevent him from injury is nonsense. That "drop off" they speak of is worded so that people who are unfamiliar with the area would think that it is a cliff. It is not. It is a slope/ramp leading away from the track and into the track maintenance area. A human can walk up the slope with little difficulty. I've done it a bunch of times while setting light towers and running cable for various television shows. The distance from the outside guard rail to the access road is probably no more than 50 to 60 feet.

 

And how high should this catch fence be? Anyone remember the 2007 World Finals wreck that Paul McMahan took at Charlotte in the Bass Pro car? If Paul had started flipping ten feet sooner, he would have cleared the catch fence in turn two and would have landed in the pit area. He was still gaining altitude when his car was caught by the fence and thrown back down onto the track. This is a picture of that wreck. Look how high that fence is.

CharlotteWorldFinals2007169.jpg


Anyone here ever been to Lincoln? The first time I ever went there, I laughed at how high the catch fence was along the front stretch. I asked a couple of people why the fence was so high. They said cars do get that high from time to time. I thought it was impossible until a wreck on a restart sent 2 cars flipping down the front stretch just off turn 4. Both cars were as high as the top of the fence.

Drivers need to stop feeling invincible and quit blaming and suing everyone else for their own ignorance when something happens to them. Racing isn't a punishment for a crime, it's a choice that sometimes has serious repercussions. You have an obligation to yourself and your family to check out a facility before you race there. If it doesn't meet your standards, find someplace else. If you race there anyway, guess what? It's your fault you got hurt and you shouldn't get a nickel from the track. 
 

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Lawsuits should be about negligence.  If the track is not negligent then other peoples live should not be ruined to make a sad story not so sad.

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This country would be a lot better off if they didn't allow Attorneys to advertise on television.

The country would be better if judges had enough backbone to throw most of the lawsuits out. Then scumbag lawyers would think twice.

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I feel really bad for John, he was really well loved by the PA fans and looked to have a great career. This sucks and I hope the Grove will do what it can to assist him with the lifelong consequences of this.

 

(Honestly, I wish more tracks, sanctioning bodies and race teams had better insurance. That is not a solution...but it can help when the worst does happen.)

 

I think a catch fence is probably a good idea because of the drop-off from the banking (same issue at Selinsgrove, Port Royal, Suskie and Hagerstown...I have seen pictures of crashes at Selinsgrove where it looks like the sprinter is 20 feet in the air flying out over the guardrails)... but many cars have cleared the guardrails at the Grove in Turns 1 & 2 over the years and most of the time the drivers have walked away.

 

I agree with those who observe that a catch fence has its own problems -- it would still have to be set back from the guardrails so a deflected car doesn't get thrown down on the track. But a catch fence hit by a lightweight sprint car can tear off a fuel cell or oil line and cause an instant inferno, rip off a tire that can go bouncing all kinds of bad places...a rollcage hit is terrible if the wing has already been ripped off or the car hits a pole supporting the fence. All of these things are very plausible in this kind of crash. There all kinds of ways to play the "what if" game and see how a catch fence could have made this crash (or others) worse, not better.

 

Race cars are dangerous. Sprint cars are scary dangerous and drivers get seriously hurt in them all the time. It sucks but it is a reality of that particular form of racing.

 

And as soon as someone starts trying to implement new safety features, people start complaining about the cost. There is that line of "can you really afford to race if you can't afford good safety gear"? But I have seen teams with money for good motors and new tires every week and a big enclosed hauler, but that grease spattered firesuit is what the driver goes onto the track with. Racers still think "It won't happen to me."

 

The biggest issue, especially with the tremendous speeds and light cars involved in Sprints, is that a solution to one safety issue can cause problems with another...take the issue with HANS devices: Lots of drivers resist wearing them fearing that they won't be able to get out of a burning sprint car and they (pretty reasonably) think that having to exit a burning sprint car is more of a risk.

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I am betting that John wasn't going to do any thing about the crash until the lawyers started calling saying he could possibly get a bizzion $$. Then of coarse you start thinking about how that would set you for life. When I was in school a 1000 yrs ago and played sports I used to get letters and calls from Doctors & lawyers I never heard of to call them in CASE I got hurt. Its the way it is now and I guess we have to live with it, hopefully it don't kill everything we love to do.

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The country would be better if judges had enough backbone to throw most of the lawsuits out. Then scumbag lawyers would think twice.

 

Judges are scumbag lawyers...

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I forgot to say something in my original post that I feel needs to be said.

 

I would have to imagine that Williams Grove carries decent insurance coverage because of the injuries that are associated with Sprint Car racing. Because this incident happened back in 2008, I am pretty sure that the insurance provider has already offered some sort of settlement to get Westbrook off the books, and he probably had a lawyer speak for him to make sure he got a fair offer. Let's keep in mind that lawyers traditionally work for 1/3 of the settlement. I have heard that some lawyers today now expect 1/2. Because of that, I truly believe that the lawyer is the one with the bigger interest in a huge payday.

 

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I was trying to be a little more diplomatic, just in case I had to go in front of one again. Lol.

It doesn't matter how diplomatic you are, or if you are innocent. Most judges are Scumbag liars/ lawyers.

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What I find interesting is John is still involved with a car that runs weekly at Williams Grove.  If there is a feeling that the track is negligent then why continue to be involved with racing at the facility?

 

 

I was thinking the same thing. To me, this would be the epitome of contradiction, but then I'm not a judge.

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What I find interesting is John is still involved with a car that runs weekly at Williams Grove.  If there is a feeling that the track is negligent then why continue to be involved with racing at the facility?

 

 

If the track's lawyer(who hopefully is NOT a scumbag)is smart, he should bring up the said point if and when this case goes to court!!!..And secondly, if I owned the track,I'd tell this guy"don't think you're ever gonna come here again if you're gonna sue me!!"..

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What I find interesting is John is still involved with a car that runs weekly at Williams Grove.  If there is a feeling that the track is negligent then why continue to be involved with racing at the facility?

 

 

If the justice system makes any sense at all the instant this point is brought up the judge will dismiss the entire thing and scold the plaintiff for wasting the courts time.    

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