Injured spectator sues IndyCar, Grand Prix

Negligence led to a head injury, the suit says.
Published May 11 2015
Updated May 12 2015

The spectator injured at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has sued the race, its governing body and a fence company alleging their negligence led to her being struck in the head by a piece of debris.

The 16-page suit — filed by attorneys Justin C. Johnson and Christopher M. Rotunda — seeks damages in excess of $15,000 from the IndyCar Series, race owner/operator Green Savoree and Smith Fence.

According to the suit, Pinellas County resident Brigitte Hoffstetter and her husband, Gregory, attended the March 29 race. Hoffstetter was in the concession area about 100 yards from the track when a piece of debris flew from one of the cars. It soared over the fence and struck her in the head, resulting in a depressed skull fracture.

The suit alleges that IndyCar was responsible because of the series' aero kits — new bodywork on the front and rear wings that debuted during the race. The aero kits were designed to increase speeds and boost competition between manufacturers with detailed winglets and flaps.

The suit accuses the series of failing to properly test the bodywork before the season-opening Grand Prix and failing to ensure the parts were securely fastened to the cars. The result was bodywork that was "extremely dangerous and unsafe," it says. IndyCar mandated stronger bodywork and more support for the cars' wings before the second race of the season.

The suit alleges that the series and race promoters failed to sufficiently warn spectators of the danger, even after an early caution because of debris, and that the fence company failed to provide adequate barriers to keep spectators safe.

An IndyCar spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a message left with the fence company was not returned.

The suit, filed Friday in Pinellas County Circuit Court, demands a jury trial. It says Hoffstetter suffered pain, disability and loss of consortium as a resul of the incident.

Hoffstetter's attorneys announced their intent to sue the City of St. Petersburg in a letter last month. Ben Kirby, a spokesman for Mayor Rick Kriseman, said the city will not comment on pending litigation.

Times staff writer Charlie Frago contributed to this report. Contact Matt Baker at [email protected]. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.