June 26, 2012 01:45:35 PM

A $ 5 million wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the owners and operators of Marysville Raceway Park over a fatal crash during a 2010 exhibition.

The family of Merle Shepherd Jr. filed suit against track operators Paul and Cathy Hawes, track owner Richard Sinnot and Joseph Dymon, the driver of the vehicle that clipped Shepherd’s truck and caused the wreck on Aug. 14, 2010.

“Steps could have and should have been taken that would’ve prevented this death,” said Edward Schade, the attorney representing Shepherd’s wife, Linda. “If they had even simply followed their own protocols, all of this could’ve been avoided.”

Phone calls to the racetrack were not returned Monday.

Shepherd was killed during the track’s first IBRRA Big Rig Trucks exhibition.

“The track was too small for that type of an event,” Schade said.

The Fair Oaks-based attorney said any liability waivers Shepherd may have signed would only cover “general negligence,” and not what he referred to as “gross negligence.”

“It was an absolute calamity of errors that caused this death, and it could’ve been so easily avoided,” Schade said.

Prior to the deadly crash, two other violent collisions had occurred at the event that night, according to Appeal-Democrat archives.

According to the lawsuit, Shepherd was exiting a turn when his truck was clipped from behind by Dymon’s truck, causing Shepherd’s truck to roll and land upside down.

The truck cab collapsed under the weight and crush Shepherd, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Sacramento County Superior Court.

The lawsuit claims Dymon was a “known felon” who was not supposed to be participating in the event.

“If he had known of the conviction, Mr. Shepherd would not have participated in the event,” Schade said Monday.

Initially, the track operators said Shepherd’s death would close down the track.

Paul Hawes called Shepherd a “very close friend” and said he only agreed to reopen a month later at the urging of a large group of supporters.

Hawes told the Appeal-Democrat in 2010 that group of supporters included Shepherd’s widow, Linda, who is now suing the track.

Shepherd’s death was the first at the track in its nearly 50 year history, supporters noted at the time.

CONTACT Rob Parsons at rparsons@appealdemocrat.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.