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Racetrack being sued for $20 million

May 14, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The company that operates the Charles Town Races and Slots, along with other defendants, is being sued for $20 million by a Virginia family who claims they suffered substantial injuries when a motorist who was served free alcoholic drinks at the track collided with their car on U.S. 340.

On Aug. 19, 2000, Jean Rellins went to the races to play slot machines, according to the suit filed by Carol and Martin Ferguson Sr. and their son, Martin Ferguson Jr.

After Rellins arrived, a cocktail waitress took Rellins' order for white wine and brought Rellins two complimentary white wines, according to the suit, filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

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Track employees continued to serve Rellins free alcoholic drinks from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m., the suit said.

Rellins left the track about 8:30 p.m. and drove toward Harpers Ferry, W.Va., in a Ford Explorer, the suit said. Rellins was severely intoxicated and was driving north in the southbound lanes of U.S. 340, the suit said.

About two-tenths of a mile south of the Bolivar, W.Va., traffic light, Rellins' car collided head-on with a 1999 Lincoln Town Car driven by Martin Ferguson Jr., the suit said.

Carol Ferguson suffered numerous fractures, liver and kidney failure and her family feared she would die, the suit said. She was hospitalized for nine weeks, received more than $350,000 in medical bills and is expected to need a cane for the rest of her life to walk, the suit said.

Martin Ferguson Jr. has had multiple surgeries, painful rehabilitation and is also expected to need a cane to walk for the rest of his life, the suit said. Ferguson's father suffered substantial injuries and has more than $11,000 in medical bills, the suit said.

The Fergusons claim the track's conduct was "grossly negligent, reckless and without any regard for the safety and welfare of others." The Fergusons also claim track officials have a duty to avoid creating a risk to others by taking precautions in the service of alcohol.

Dan Doherty, a spokesman for the track, said Monday that employees there have a commitment to the safe and responsible serving of alcohol at the oval. Doherty said he could not comment further on the case.

The Fergusons live in Frederick County, Va. Rellins, who resides in Fairfax County, Va., is being held at the Eastern Regional Jail.

The defendants include Penn National Gaming Inc., Penn National Gaming of W.Va. Inc., PNGI Charles Town Food and Beverage LLC, PNGI Charles Town Gaming LLC and Rellins.

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