A United States federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit arising from last year’s US Grand Prix debacle.
Disgruntled fans were seeking punitive damages and compensation for ticket costs, travel expenses and food after the Indianapolis race was reduced to a six-car procession following the withdrawal of the Michelin teams on safety grounds.
But in a 12-page ruling, Judge Sarah Evans Barker threw out the action – which consolidated 10 separate suits – against F1 promoter Formula One Management, Michelin and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The judge ruled that there was no breach of contract because those buying tickets for sporting events do so in the knowledge that participants may be sidelined for one reason or another.
In any grand prix, for example, drivers and cars may be eliminated from competition due to accidents or mechanical failures, just as players in football or basketball games might be suspended or benched.
“The power to make these decisions is the implicit – perhaps even explicit – risk that sports fans assume when they buy a ticket of admission to a sporting event,” Barker stated.
“It’s to be assumed that the Michelin teams made the decision they believed to be in their best competitive and professional interests, and in doing so, they owned no legal duty to let the preferences of the spectators trump their own good judgement.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney Henry J. Price told the Associated Press that he would appeal the ruling next week.
Michelin, whose warning to its seven teams that it could not guarantee the safety of its tyres triggered the mass withdrawal, issued refunds to 2005 ticket holders as well as 20,00 free tickets for the 2006 race – efforts that were noted by the judge.
The French manufacturer has also scheduled a series of fan events in the run-up to this year’s race in an attempt to rebuild F1’s reputation with the American public, which was left in tatters last summer.
It remains to be seen what impact the ‘Indygate’ affair will have on attendance at this year’s event, the last on the current contract between FOM and IMS.