International Medical Group(R), Inc. announced that, through its subsidiary iTravelInsured(R), it would offer refunds for U.S. Grand Prix tickets to any client who purchased trip cancellation coverage through the company for the trip to Indianapolis to attend the race.
Formula One’s premier North American appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) turned from a spectacle into a farce on Sunday when seven of the ten competing teams withdrew their cars from the race after the warm up lap due to fears that their Michelin tires would not stand up to race conditions. Last minute efforts to save the race by bringing in new tires, or by altering the course at a particular point to reduce speeds, failed. Only six cars, all using Bridgestone tires, competed in the race, which was won by Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher.
The estimated crowd of 130,000 was predictably outraged, and most of them are seeking reimbursement. “Normally, this would not be a covered event under these trip cancellation plans,” stated IMG President Joe Brougher. “However, I attended the race so I share the disappointment of the IMS and the city of Indianapolis that the race was not what we all expected. To help ease that frustration, we are offering those clients who purchased a trip cancellation product through our company a refund on their race tickets.”
The IMG bulletin said that those of its clients entitled to a refund “must send their ticket stubs to iTravelInsured, 2960 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208 and the company will confirm that a trip cancellation plan was purchased for the trip to Indianapolis. In addition, those who seek a refund must not be eligible to receive a ticket refund from any other source. Clients who have questions should call 866.347.6673 or 317.655.9796.”
For more information about IMG and the products the company offers, call 800.628.4664, 317.655.4500, or visit their Website at www.imglobal.com.
While none have dared to speak its name, it seems pretty clear that the U.S. tort liability system was the specter that haunted the race (non-) participants on Sunday. Michael Schumacher, the seven times F1 champion, is the world’s highest paid athlete. He earns $25 million a year from Ferrari alone, plus more untold millions in endorsements. His potential successors, Alonso, Raikonnen, Montoya, Button, Heidfeld, etc. are all potentially worth as much.
Suppose they had raced, and one of them were killed, or severely injured in an accident due to a tire failure. An American tort lawyer would put together prior knowledge of a potentially dangerous, life threatening, condition, a willful failure to ameliorate the threat (by changing the tires or the track) and conclude that there was liability on the part of all concerned. Michelin (which earns over 30 percent of its revenues in the U.S.), Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Renault, Honda and the others involved could also have been charged with gross negligence in ordering their drivers to compete, opening the door for a punitive damage award, and the possibility that some insurance policies could be inapplicable.
The teams were therefore looking not only to the safety of their drivers but also to a huge potential liability when they made the decision to withdraw from the race, regardless of the serious consequences for the sport.
Now F1 faces a different crisis. The fiasco in Indianapolis may well have destroyed all the years of effort the FIA and the constructors have spent trying to make Grand Prix races popular in the vast U.S. market.
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