Suit: Harness track conditions ignored until crash

June 9th, 2015 4:08 pm

First Posted: 3/17/2014

PHILADELPHIA — Harrah’s Philadelphia ignored complaints about dangerous harness racing track conditions for two years before a chain-reaction crash that left a sulky driver with brain injuries, lawyers charged in court papers Monday.

Anthony Coletta, 31, of Hudson City, N.J., sustained permanent brain damage and other serious injuries when a horse in front of him stumbled, throwing him from his cart, his lawyers said.

“They knew there was an unreasonably dangerous condition because horses were routinely losing their footing. 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,” said lawyer Joseph G. DeAngelo, who said that drivers repeatedly warned Harrah’s about the track’s condition.

Harrah’s lawyer Larry Kelly said he had not seen the complaint and had no immediate comment. Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack in suburban Chester is owned by Caesar’s Entertainment Corp.

The Philadelphia Common Pleas suit was filed this year on behalf of Coletta and his parents, Alfred and Rosemary Coletta of Hammonton, N.J. The family lawyers, including DeAngelo and Michael Barrett, filed the formal complaint Monday after winning court permission to inspect the track.

The lawyers charge that Harrah’s “turned a blind eye” to complaints the track was dangerous before the chain-reaction collision.

The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission recently lifted the racetrack’s suspension, although the season did not resume as scheduled because of the cold, snowy weather. The commission had issued the suspension in January after drivers complained about the track’s condition.