Jon Campisi Mar. 19, 2014, 10:12am


Relatives of a harness-racing driver who sustained traumatic brain injuries

during a crash at a suburban Philadelphia racetrack have filed suit against the owners and operators of the venue.

The parents of New Jersey resident Anthony Coletta filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court on Tuesday alleging that the Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino in Chester, Delaware County, which is where the racetrack is located, knew for two years prior to the accident that the track was “dangerously defective” and posed a safety threat to drivers and their horses.

The defendants in the litigation – Caesars Entertainment Corp., Caesars Entertainment Operating Corp., Chester Downs and Marina LLC, Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack Inc. and Harrah’s Chester Downs Management Co. LLC ­– are accused of knowing about the hazardous conditions at the track but failing to take corrective measures because it didn’t want to spend the necessary time or money.

“It is now clear, and asserted in the Complaint, that the track owners turned a blind eye when it came to track maintenance and they permitted an unreasonably dangerous condition to exist at the exact location where the chain-reaction accident began,” Michael F. Barrett, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement.

The complaint says that the defendants, in not taking any action to remedy the alleged defects in the racetrack, put the lives of the professional harness drivers at risk.”

“Harrah’s Philadelphia and Caesars failed to take any action with respect to assessing and/or redoing the track during the September 2013 racing season break, which was just two months prior to Anthony Coletta’s injuries,” the complaint reads.

The 31-year-old Coletta sustained numerous fractures, as well as brain and skull injuries, as a result of being thrown from his sulky, the device pulled by the horse, and then trampled by other harness racers.

The law firm that represents his parents maintains that it was impossible for Coletta to avoid the horse in front of him that stumbled on the defective surface, an act that set off the “horrific accident.”

Coletta, who was once a widely acclaimed harness racer, remains hospitalized following several surgeries, according to the law firm of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barret & Bendesky.

During the firm’s investigation, attorneys learned that drivers at Harrah’s repeatedly attempted to warn the owners of the racetrack of the imminent danger and urgent need for repairs, but the concerns apparently fell on deaf ears.

“They knew there was an unreasonably dangerous condition because horses were routinely losing their footing,” co-counsel Joseph G. DeAngelo said in a statement. “There is no question that this was an accident waiting to happen and that corrective actions were not seriously considered until after Mr. Coletta nearly died.”

The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they received a court order back in January permitting them to conduct a forensic investigation of the racetrack’s surface.

The plaintiffs in the case, Hammonton, N.J. residents Alfred and Rosemary Coletta, the injured driver’s parents, turned to the law firm to use “all legal means necessary to determine what caused the accident, hold those responsible fully accountable for their actions, and ensure that no other drivers and their horses are put at risk,” reads a statement from Saltz Mongeluzzi.

“We look forward on behalf of Anthony and his family to presenting this case of corporate greed and indifference to a jury,” stated Robert Mongeluzzi, a partner with the firm.

The plaintiffs seek more than $50,000 in damages.

 

The case ID number is 140102714.

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