Mike Stevens died during a 2013 Maritime Pro Stock Tour race at Oyster Bed Speedway in Prince Edward Island, Canada. A Prince Edward Island Supreme Court decision ignited concerns about the wording in waiver releases signed by participants at racetracks across the country.
Justice Tracey L. Clements denied a request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Stevens’ widow, Sharon, and their two children, against Oyster Bed Speedway, the Maritime Pro Stock Tour, and Shaw’s Towing Service.
Justice Clements ruled that the release signed by the driver on race night would have kept the driver from suing the parties involved because of injury. However, the signed release would not prevent a driver’s widow or their dependents from making a claim.
“The decision in [Donovan v. Queens County Residential Services] binding on this court addresses the derivative issue before me: the waivers and release documents executed by the deceased do not preclude a claim by the deceased’s dependents,” Clements said.
Mike Stevens (aka Robert Michael Stevens), of Riverview, New Brunswick, 30, died on the 98th lap of a 100-lap feature after his pro stock turned over in a pileup. Stevens hung upside-down in his seat, secured by his safety harness. With one side of the car next to the track’s wall and the other next to another car, Stevens was unable to exit the car.
In 2013, Ken Cunning, Maritime Pro Stock Tour general manager, said the driver appeared to be okay shortly afterward and was talking to emergency crews.
The RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] investigated Stevens’ death.
“There’s a number of safety equipment that the drivers do wear, they wear what’s called a HANS collar [Head and Neck Support device] and a helmet of course, and that protects them against severe whiplash when they’re in a crash. So this driver had been wearing his equipment but after the crash, removed it,” RCMP Sgt. Leanne Butler told media after the investigation.
The coroner’s report said he did not suffer any injuries from the crash, but instead died from suffocation.
The plaintiffs and defendants disagreed on what exactly led to Stevens’ death.
The defendants allege that Mike Stevens released his safety harness while upside-down. The plaintiffs call what happened a “botched rescue mission by track officials, race organizers and Shaw’s Towing workers on site that day.” They allege the harness was cut by someone and that Mike Stevens would not have cut the harness on his own.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2015 and can now proceed as the result of the court’s ruling.
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.