Monday, March 20, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Family Blames Sprint|for Motorcyclist’s Death

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Sprint and Boost Mobile caused a motocross rider's death at a NASCAR event by having him jump over a dangerously set-up motor home, his family claims in court.

The late James Ryan McNeil's wife, Stephanie Berkes, and parents, Sharell and John McNeil, all of Arizona, sued, its president Mark Burnett, Boost Mobile LLC, Sprint/United Management Co., and 50 anonymous promoters, in Superior Court.

NASCAR is not a party to the complaint.

The defendants "organize, promote, manage, supervise and/or sponsor freestyle motocross exhibition events at various entertainment venues across the U.S.," according to the complaint.

The family adds: "At the events and in practicing for the events, the riders jump their motorcycles over a motor home and land on ramps provided and set up by defendants, who are responsible for the proper placement of the motor home, the ramp, and the safety equipment for the ramp."

But the defendants failed to set up the obstacle safely for the NASCAR race at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas on Nov. 6, 2011, the family says in the lawsuit.

That day, "while practicing for the event, James Ryan McNeil attempted to perform a jump, but was unable to travel a sufficient distance to reach the landing ramp. As a result, his body slammed into the unguarded landing ramp, resulting in severe personal injuries which eventually led to his death."

McNeil, then 32, and other riders were part of the Boost Mobile/ team and were "required to perform pursuant to a contract between defendant Inc. and defendant Sprint/United Management Co.," according to the complaint.

"Notwithstanding the current standard of care to equip motorcycle landing ramps with airbags to protect riders who do not clear a jump, defendants elected to proceed with James Ryan McNeil's practice jump without equipping the landing ramp with airbags. Further, the space between the motor home being jumped and the landing ramp was too large to adequately protect James Ryan McNeil in the event he was unable to reach the landing ramp during his jump."

The family seeks damages for medical and funeral expenses, and punitive damages for negligence, loss of consortium and wrongful death.

They are represented by Kevin Quinn and Neal Markowitz with Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire of San Diego.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.