UPDATE: Judge approves Harrah's track inspection

02:11 AM 31 Jan 2014 NZDT
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Anthony Coletta, harness racing
Anthony Coletta still remains hospitalized

CBS Philly News has reported that Anthony Coletta's Family lawyer, Michael Barrett, says a judge Thursday gave his firm until February 21, 2014 to inspect the track. He says Harrah’s Philadelphia did not object to the motion.

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Attorneys from Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett, & Bendesky, P.C., representing critically injured harness racing driver Anthony Coletta, are seeking a court order to force the owners of Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack to permit a forensic investigation of the controversial track surface which has been linked to the horrific November 17, 2013 accident that nearly claimed the life of Mr. Coletta.

Mr. Coletta's parents-guardians, Alfred and Rosemary Coletta, of Hammonton, New Jersey, turned to the Firm on behalf of their son 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. The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission last week temporarily suspended racing at the track due to concerns over the track surface – including its composition and maintenance - and Harrah's alleged failure to cooperate with the state's investigation.

Attorneys Robert Mongeluzzi, Michael Barrett, and Joseph DeAngelo, of SMBB, are asking a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge to order Harrah's to permit their requested investigation of the track surface to proceed. A hearing on their request is scheduled for today, January 30, in City Hall.

Harrah's lawyers have denied the inspection request to date. In addition, the filed Motion to Compel (January Term : 002714) seeks to compel Harrah's (actual defendants named in the Motion and Writ of Summons are: Chester Downs and Marina, LLC D/B/A Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack Inc., and Harrah's Chester Downs Management Co, LLC) to preserve all documents and physical evidence that could prove critical in their investigation on behalf of Mr. Coletta.

The 31-year-old driver, engaged to be married later this year, suffered numerous fractures, brain and skull injuries as a direct result of being thrown from his sulky and then trampled. He remains hospitalized following several operations and is fully dependent on others for all forms of life care. He had been living in Hudson City, New Jersey.

"Based on our preliminary investigation, including the Commonwealth's actions against the racetrack, we are very concerned about the potential destruction of evidence and, therefore, ask the Court to order our team of experts to conduct a complete on-site investigation by no later than February 7th," said Mr. Mongeluzzi. "If Harrah's is truly concerned about the welfare of the drivers and horses, and wishes to regain its suspended racing license, it should have no issues with our request."

The track's racing season is scheduled to begin March 8th and the attorneys contend that economic motives on the part of the track operator are in conflict with the need to conduct a thorough investigation. Harrah's is a subsidiary of Las Vegas-headquartered Caesars Entertainment Corporation.

"We need to know if the track was being maintained following best industry practices, because its troubled history would indicate otherwise," said Mr. Barrett. "If this was an accident waiting to happen, then Mr. Coletta, his family, and every other driver deserve to know why they've been put in harms way."

Mr. DeAngelo noted that the Motion is supported by public statements of "several veteran harness drivers" to the effect that "the racetrack was defective in the area where the horse (in front of Mr. Coletta's) fell, and that Defendants were aware of the racetrack's condition and failed to remedy the condition despite requests from the harness drivers and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

 

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