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Attorneys seek race car debris that struck client at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Lawyers for the spectator injured at last month's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg have notified the city that she intends to file a lawsuit over its "negligent acts or omissions."

The woman, Brigitte Hoffstetter, was struck in the head by a piece of a car that sailed over the fence. According to the court filing, Hoffstetter — who is six months pregnant — stumbled three steps backward before falling and smacking her head against the ground.

She was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg where, according to a court filing, doctors told her she suffered a depressed skull fracture and a possible back injury.

Four days after the incident, her attorneys sent the city a letter announcing their intent to sue in six months — a notice required under Florida law.

The letter, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times under open-records laws, alleges the city failed to have the race "operated in a proper and safe manner" and to "adequately protect spectators and/or individuals from the dangerous condition of flying debris or other projectiles."

The Grand Prix marked the debut of IndyCar's new aero kits, which featured more intricate bodywork on the front and rear wings. The race featured several early cautions because of debris from the new parts. IndyCar has since mandated stronger bodywork and more support for the cars' wings before this weekend's race in New Orleans.

The woman's lawyers, Justin C. Johnson and Christopher M. Rotunda, filed a related lawsuit against the city this week to preserve the piece of debris that struck Hoffstetter. They want to review it to "determine additional theories of liability, as well as identify additional defendants."

But St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said the department doesn't have possession of the item that hit Hoffstetter. Puetz said the officer on scene took pictures of the fragment and handed it over to an IndyCar security official.

"IndyCar has the piece believed to be involved in the incident and would make it available to her attorney upon request," said Mike Kitchel, IndyCar's communications director.

Hoffstetter's family and attorneys could not be reached for comment.

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