Man hurt at speedway starts suit

FONDA – A Fort Johnson man who was paralyzed after being struck by a tire at Fonda Speedway is taking legal action against the company that owns the race track, as well as three governing bodies.

David Buanno and his wife, Linda, filed a notice of claim at the Montgomery County clerk’s office Nov. 1, naming the village, Montgomery County, the county Industrial Development Agency and the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, which owns the Fonda Fairgrounds and the speedway.

David Buanno, who broke his spine and was on life support after the Aug. 10 accident, now has limited use of his arms but no use of his legs, said his attorney, Cynthia LaFave.

A retired stock-car driver and a member of the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame, Buanno had been visiting the pit area during a race that night when a tire came off a vehicle, bounced over a barrier and hit him.

In the claim, the Buannos say the speedway had improper construction, maintenance and inspections, which created a dangerous condition.

The claim says the property lacked “necessary safety structures and/or protocols in place, including but not limited to fencing, barricades and/or walls” to protect people.

Filing a notice of claim within 90 days of an incident is the first step in starting a lawsuit against a governing body, such as the county, the IDA and the village.

The Buannos were not required to file a notice of claim against the agricultural society, a nonprofit group that owns the racetrack but awards its operation to outside parties under a bidding process. Matt DiLorenzo was awarded the bid for the 2014 racing season after Ric Lucia operated the track for 17 years.

LaFave said with limited time to gather information and file the notice, she chose to cast a wide net to preserve her clients’ rights to litigation.

“We submitted a notice of claim against anyone where we thought a claim of notice was needed,” she said, noting the list of respondents in the notice of claim would not be identical to a list of lawsuit defendants. “We’re going to bring a lawsuit against a number of other people.”

Under general municipal law, the Buannos have until mid-November 2014 to file the lawsuit if any governing bodies will be defendants. LaFave said she expects to file suit in a few months.

Montgomery County Attorney Doug Landon, who also represents the county IDA, said he doesn’t see a connection between county government and the accident, but he understood LaFave’s approach under a tight timeline. He said a lawsuit, if filed, likely would be more focused.

“From my read of the notice of claim, it would not appear to me that the county and the county IDA are not appropriate defendants,” Landon said.

Fonda Mayor Bill Peeler said he is unaware of details about the incident and referred comment to Village Attorney Michael Albanese of Gloversville, who could not be reached for comment this morning.

Agricultural Society President Richard Kennedy could not be reached for comment this morning.

The notice of claim says the respondents created a track and pit area with concealed and unreasonable risks and didn’t have “constructive notice of the dangerous and hazardous conditions.”

The claim says David Buanno suffered neck and back paralysis, but the claim does not elaborate.

“The full extent of [Buanno’s] damages and injuries are unknown at this time,” the notice says. The couple “also seek to recover derivative damages sustained by Linda Buanno,” according to the claim.