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Kevin Ward Jr.'s family, Tony Stewart reach settlement in wrongful death lawsuit

Tony Stewart walks to court in Syracuse in June 2017/ CNYCentral file photo

Mere weeks before a trial was scheduled to begin, Tony Stewart and a central New York family have reached a settlement in the lawsuit against the former NASCAR champion for the death of Kevin Ward Jr. in 2014.

According to court filings, Judge David Hurd has set a settlement hearing for April 12 for the sides to put the terms of the pending settlement on the record. The news was first reported by ESPN's Bob Pockrass.

The settlement would end the civil lawsuit that was filed by Ward's family against Stewart a year after Ward's death. After a judge ruled back in December that the lawsuit could go forward, a trial was set to begin five weeks from now.

Ward was struck and killed by Stewart's vehicle during the Empire Super Sprints race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 9, 2014. Ward had exited his vehicle after contact between his car and Stewart's sent Ward spinning into the wall at the upstate New York dirt track. Ward appeared to be yelling in the direction of Stewart when he was fatally struck by Stewart's car.

An Ontario County grand jury cleared Stewart of any criminal wrongdoing just a few weeks after the deadly collision. The District Attorney said Ward had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash.

Ward's parents filed a lawsuit against Stewart in 2015, claiming the former NASCAR star "could have easily acted reasonably and with prudence to avoid striking Ward, just as all other drivers had done" prior. The lawsuit further alleges Stewart "acted with disregard" to the the 20-year-old driver's life when he accelerated his car, "driving his vehicle in a manner that would terrorize Ward and thereafter strike, severely injure and kill Ward."

At least three prior attempts were made by both parties to settle the case, including a meeting between the two sides in Syracuse in June, each failed.

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