The family of the late sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. has reached a settlement with Tony Stewart in a wrongful-death lawsuit that was five weeks before trial, according to ESPN.com. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
The report of a settlement, which still needs the approval of Judge David Hurd, comes a little more than 3 1/2 years after Stewart struck Ward with his car after the young driver walked out onto the track to confront him after a wreck at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York Aug. 9, 2014.
The lawsuit, filed in New York, claimed that Stewart wrongfully caused Ward’s death by acting with "wanton, reckless and malicious intent and negligence." The suit further said the three-time NASCAR champion also caused Ward to experience extreme terror, pain and suffering.
“Our son was truly the light of our lives and we miss him terribly every day,” Ward's parents Kevin and Pamela said in a statement after filing the lawsuit. “Our hope is that this lawsuit will hold Tony Stewart responsible for killing our son and show him there are real consequences when someone recklessly takes another person’s life.”
A grand jury decided in September 2014 that there was not enough evidence to support criminal charges against Stewart. The district attorney who also handled the case said Ward, 20, had enough marijuana in his system to influence his actions the night he was killed.
Some witnesses claim, however, that Stewart gunned his accelerator and ran over Ward, who was pronounced dead shortly afterward at a local hospital.
“Kevin Ward would be alive today if not for the reckless and dangerous actions of Tony Stewart, who eventually will have to answer for what he did,” the Ward family's lawyer Mark Lanier said in a statement in 2015. “The past year has been extremely difficult for Kevin’s mother and father, and they’re still trying to cope with their unimaginable loss.”
After the incident, Stewart called the accident “one of the toughest tragedies I have ever had to deal with ” and added “this is something that will definitely affect my life forever.”
The settlement hearing is scheduled for April 12 and will end the civil lawsuit if approved by Judge David Hurd.