(CN) – Flowmaster Inc. may be liable for a fatal race-car accident during a Tennessee parade, despite the fact that the muffler and exhaust technology company did not sponsor the charity event.
During the 2007 Cars for Kids exhibition in Selmer, Tenn., Australian race driver Troy Critchley attempted to perform a “burnout,” in which a car revs its engine, kicks up smoke with its tires and then takes off.
However, the car crashed into the parade crowd, killing six people and injuring many more.
Ginny Beth King and several other plaintiffs in the subsequent lawsuit filed claims of negligence, joint venture and ultrahazardous activity.
In previous years, Flowmaster had donated thousands of dollars to the event and founder Ray Flugger once served as the grand marshal for the parade. However, during the year in question, Flowmaster did not give money or participate in the event. Flowmaster asked for and received summary judgment from the trial court.
But the plaintiffs’ appealed arguing that Richard Small, Flowmaster’s senior vice president of marketing, was the one who invited Critchley to the parade and therefore had a duty of care in regard to the event.
“He said what’s involved? And I said, well, you have a static display. You set up. They have a thing on Saturday night. It’s kind of unique. They do burnouts, short ones, go up Main Street,” Small recalled.
He added that the burnout was optional and was Critchley’s decision.
The Jackson-based Tennessee Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that Flowmaster was not part of a joint venture in putting on the “Cars for Kids” event, but it remanded the case for trial on the claims of negligence, ultrahazardous activity and negligence per se for participating in a drag race.
“We find that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the “burnout” performed falls within the “drag racing” definition. Additionally, we find a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Flowmaster instructed driver Critchley to perform a burnout, and if so, whether this equates to “participation” as openly defined by Tennessee (law),” wrote Judge Alan Highers on behalf of the court.