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May 20, 2022

Monterey County, Laguna Seca found not at fault for 2015 crash

SALINAS — After a three-week trial, a Monterey County Superior Court judge has found that Monterey County, which owns the Laguna Seca Racetrack in Salinas, was not responsible for a 2015 motorcycle crash on the famous track.

The crash occurred on March 14, 2015. Daniel Kim was riding his motorcycle on the Laguna Seca track on a track rental day, which allows riders and drivers to use the track during non-event time periods. 

Kim lost control of his motorcycle and struck a row of sandbags, which were in place in an area away from the track in order to keep debris and runoff from moving onto the track surface. He suffered serious injuries and later filed suit against the county and SCRAMP, the organization that was managing the track at the time, saying the sandbags were a hazard.

“Mr. Kim, like all riders at Laguna Seca, signed a waiver and release acknowledging the dangers of high speed driving and agreeing not to sue,” according to the county in a news release April 13. “Such waivers are not valid, however, if the driver can show ‘gross negligence’ by the track owner contributed to the injuries.”

The Court held there was no gross negligence, nor even any ordinary negligence, by the county or SCRAMP, and that Laguna Seca had met all safety standards for the activity on the track.

In making his ruling in favor of the county, Judge Thomas Wills noted that the sandbags, which were in place to keep the racetrack surface safe, were reasonable measures and that their location was in an area a rider was unlikely to encounter them. 

Wills also noted in his 22-page decision that crashing while riding a motorcycle, on or off the track, is an “inherent risk” that riders take.

“Plaintiff was an experienced motorcycle rider who had previously crashed and gone off track at Laguna Seca Raceway. He was well aware of these risks,” wrote Wills.

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