PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Lawyers for a driver who was severely injured when he was thrown from his cart during a harness race outside Philadelphia won court permission Thursday to inspect the condition of the track.
Anthony Coletta, 31, of Hudson City, N.J., suffered permanent brain damage and other serious injuries during a November race at Harrah’s Philadelphia in the city of Chester.
State regulators have suspended harness racing at the track, saying Harrah’s failed to resolve problems with the surface. Drivers have complained about the track’s condition.
“We believe that there was a dangerous, unsafe condition that was permitted to exist and was not rectified,” said lawyer Michael Barrett, who represents Coletta and his parents. “Unfortunately, the riders and the animals were placed in jeopardy.”
Harrah’s lawyer Larry Kelly declined comment Thursday.
The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission suspended racing at Harrah’s Philadelphia last week, a move that could affect Harrah’s casino license. The state’s five racetrack casino operators are required to maintain a “written live racing agreement with a horsemen’s organization.”
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which regulates the casino industry, has said it would monitor the Harrah’s situation. The track’s 2014 racing season is set to start March 8.
A judge gave Barrett’s firm until Feb. 21 to inspect the site. The family intends to sue Harrah’s over the crash.
Harrah’s, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., did not object to the motion, Barrett said. However, in a letter to Barrett, the company said that races continued after the Nov. 17 crash, so the track’s condition has not been preserved.
Coletta was thrown from his sulky after a horse in front of him stumbled on the track. Barrett has alleged the crash may have been “an accident waiting to happen,” given complaints from drivers.
The harness racing commission said it would suspend Harrah’s 2014 racing schedule until the track provides requested information.
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