Report: Kevin Ward Jr.'s mom felt 'forced' to settle lawsuit against Tony Stewart

Kevin Ward Jr. (left) and Tony Stewart (right)

Kevin Ward Jr.'s mother said she felt "forced" into a settlement in the lawsuit her family filed against former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart for his role in the death of their son, according to a report in USAToday Sports.

Pamela Ward told the newspaper that her family’s law firm threatened to quit the case if the family didn’t take the deal offered by Stewart's lawyers. Both parties agreed to the settlement in Utica last week. A trial had previously been scheduled for May 7.

"We felt like we were being forced to settle," Ward told USA Today Sports. "We wanted (Stewart) to be held accountable in front of a jury of his peers. He was not held accountable in a criminal case. He basically has never been held responsible at any point. I basically feel our lawyers have let us down as we were informed a month before trial that they would not be willing to take this case to trial."

Kevin 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.

According to USAToday Sports, Pamela Ward said the family contacted about a dozen law firms, but the costs of hiring new lawyers to take the case just weeks before the trial was slated to begin next month proved too prohibitive.

The terms of the settlement have been sealed. In the lawsuit, Ward's parents claimed 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 alleged 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."

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