Wrongful-Death Suit in Off-Road Race Crash

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – Four families blame gross negligence from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, auto race promoters and a driver in the California 200 for the deaths of eight spectators and injuries to dozens of others. Brett Sloppy lost control of his truck and rolled it into a crowd during the California 200 road race in the Mojave Desert on Aug. 14, 2010.
     Sloppy’s mother sued the promoters and the BLM 3 weeks ago for the anguish she suffered “when she witnessed her son, Brett M. Sloppy’s, truck veer off the racetrack at The California 200, flip over, and kill eight people and injure dozens who were permitted to stand on or near the racetrack.”
     The injuries and deaths came when Brett Sloppy, 28, lost control of a modified Ford Ranger pick-up and rolled into a crowd of people lining the off-road track on the 50-mile loop course on the Southern California desert.
     At the time of the crash, which is immortalized on YouTube, Sloppy was heading over the “rock pile” section of the course, which involved a jump. His truck plowed into a crowd that had no guard railed to protect it.
     Brett Sloppy apologized on his Facebook page the next night, describing himself as “incredibly lost and devastated,” CNN reported at the time.
     Among those killed was Michael Dickenson, who wife Janet filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of herself and her children.
     Also filing a wrongful death claim is Alan S. Freeman, the father of crash victim Zachary S. Freeman.
     Plaintiffs in the personal injury cases are Heather Haverkamp, and in the fourth case, Travis Bonnar, suing on behalf of himself and his wife, and for their son, Jakob, who was also injured.
     All plaintiffs say the Bureau of Land Management failed to follow the recreational permit process to allow the race on federal land, and that all parties, including defendants MDR Productions and Mojave Desert racing, failed to exercise proper “control, administration, management and control” of the race.
     They say the BLM “failed in its mandatory duty to ensure spectator safety at the California 200,” because under BLM policy, “spectator areas must be marked out by the permittee on the ground using temporary fencing during all events.”
     They add: “Spectator rules, code of conduct, and risk information must be posted on large signs at access roads during an event weekend. Spectators are not allowed in the pits.”
     But “none of this was done,” the plaintiffs say. “Had BLM done so, it would have withdrawn the permit and/or canceled the event due to its inadequacies as set forth in the cause of action.”
     Also absent were “specific requirements for spectator setbacks from the areas race vehicles would be traversing, signs advising of safe spectator viewing areas and safe spectator viewing distances away from areas race vehicles would be traversing, and crowd control and crowd management activities at known spectator viewing areas such as the area where the subject incident occurred,” according to the complaints.
     The plaintiffs seek general, special and personal property damages, pre- and post-judgment interest and court costs on claims of wrongful death, personal injury, negligence and strict liability.
     Dickenson is represented by Paul P. Kiesel with Kiesel, Boucher, Larson of Beverly Hills.
     Freeman, Haverkamp and the Bonnars are represented by Ronald Goldman with Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, of Los Angeles.

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