Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Former Driving Instructor Sues Vegas Track, Citing Lack of Safety Conditions

The average Joe would love a taste of the speed and danger professional drivers experience on race day. And at many tracks around the country, they can pay for just that: a few hours of instruction, a supercharged automobile, and a track, just waiting for you and your lead foot.

And while a bit of risk is inherent in the thrill of driving fast, we don't want these tourist tracks to be too risky. But it turns out one popular track in Las Vegas might be, and a former driving instructor is suing to make it more safe.

Risky Business

While a deadly crash in February may have spurred legal action, Francisco Durban's employment lawsuit claims problems have long existed at SpeedVegas, specifically that the track "is inherently, excessively and unnecessarily dangerous in design and operation" and that the company failed to properly maintain brakes on the cars used in operation.

These were just some of the issues that led to the deaths of Canadian tourist Craig Sherwood and SpeedVegas driving instructor Gil Ben-Kely, when the orange Lamborghini Aventador Sherwood was driving spun out of control, slammed into a concrete barrier, and burst into flames. Durban claims that, after a brief closure of the track following the crash, instructors were required to submit to psychiatric evaluations, pass road tests on the track, and sign a form affirming that "every precaution has been taken to ensure my safety as well as the safety of our guests." Durban refused to sign the form.

Legal Risk

Not only did Durban refuse to sign the form, citing his belief that "SpeedVegas has not taken every precaution to ensure his or the customers' safety," he contends returning to work would amount to "putting himself in an unreasonably dangerous situation. Because SpeedVegas refused to move the concrete walls or install safer barriers used by Formula One tracks, Durban could not be expected to work in unsafe conditions and this effectively amounted to his wrongful termination. Durban also filed a formal safety complaint with the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who is investigated the fatal crash.

Meanwhile, SpeedVegas has reopened, presumably to the delight of speed freaks in Sin City. CEO Aaron Fessler defended the decision, and his company against Durban's lawsuit, claiming the track is safe enough: "After extensive on-site inspections, each concluded that there is nothing inherently unsafe in either the design or operating procedures at SpeedVegas."

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