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Race driver Tony Stewart's insurer not liable in fatal sprint car crash

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Axis Insurance Co. is not obligated to defend or indemnify NASCAR race driver Tony Stewart in connection with the accident that fatally injured another driver in a 2014 race because the race was not explicitly listed under an endorsement in Mr. Stewart's commercial general liability policy, says a court ruling.

Mr. Stewart struck and killed Kevin A. Ward Jr. on Aug. 9, 2014, during the Empire Super Sprint event held at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Canandaigua, New York, according to Friday's ruling by the U.S. District Court in Utica, New York, in Axis Insurance Co. v. Anthony Wayne Stewart.

Mr. Ward was hit by Mr. Stewart's car after he exited his disabled car and was walking down the track on foot, according to the ruling by Judge David N. Hurd.

In 2014, a grand jury decided against bringing criminal charges against Mr. Stewart in connection with the accident, according to news reports. Mr. Stewart faces, however, a wrongful death lawsuit from Mr. Ward's family.

Mr. Stewart has sought coverage for the litigation under a commercial general liability policy issued to his Brownsburg, Indiana-based Tony Stewart Racing Enterprises firm by Axis Insurance, a unit of Pembroke, Bermuda-based Axis Capital Holdings Ltd.

The policy provides coverage that “the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of 'bodily injury' or 'property damage' to which this insurance applies,” according to the ruling.

The policy, however, included an endorsement stating coverage only applies to a “Schedule of Events” that lists 105 “specified events” which do not include the Canandaigua race.

“It is clear that the average insured, upon reading the CGL policy in this case, would have expected and understood that exposure to, and thus Axis' possible responsibility for, insurance claims arising from team racing activities would be limited to the listed events,” said the ruling, in holding the policy is “unambiguously limited” by the schedule, and Axis is not obligated to provide a defense or indemnification in connection with the Ward litigation.