Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pocono Raceway lightning death: Who is responsible?

On Sunday August 5, 2012, lightning struck at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, killing one person and injuring nine others.

According to news reports, the Raceway told fans over their P.A. system to take cover when it began to storm. They also posted messages on Twitter encouraging people to take cover and evacuate the stands; however, there were no orders to evacuate the track itself.

The man who was killed was near his car in the Raceway's parking lot. Lightning struck the car, then jumped to him, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. Others were struck closer to the grandstands, including one person who was in critical condition.

"We are deeply saddened that a fan has died and others were injured by lightning strikes following today's race at Pocono," the spokesman for NASCAR said. 85,000 people were at the track for the NASCAR race.

Storms and premises liability

Is Pocono Raceway or NASCAR responsible for the injuries and death that the storm caused?

The question may come down to whether the raceway warned fans of the oncoming storm and whether that warning was timely.

Is a Twitter warning proper? How likely are the fans to see that warning? Was there a proper warning over the P.A. system? Some fans say that they did not hear the warnings, perhaps because the races were too loud.

Finally, were the warnings too late? Some fans say they were, especially since a severe storm warning was issued at 4:12 p.m. and NASCAR didn't call the race until 4:54 p.m.

Officials are investigating whether the warnings and other emergency procedures were sufficient. If they were not, the Pocono Raceway may be held liable for the injuries. There are also questions about whether or not NASCAR is liable for keeping the race going. "While the facility is ultimately responsible for the fans' safety," one Speedway director said, "It's obviously very difficult to get people to leave if there are still cars going around the racetrack."

If you or a loved one was injured at a racetrack or any other event, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries. Learn more about who is liable for injuries on someone else's property by reading our page on Pennsylvania premises liability.

Source: The Washington Post, "NASCAR: After lightning strikes, disagreement over weather warnings at Pocono Raceway," Associated Press, Aug. 5, 2012.

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