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Crash and Burn: NASCAR Lawsuit Barred by Indemnity Agreement

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 30, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lawsuits are a tough sell when a plaintiff has specifically agreed to not sue the defendant.

Take NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield, for example. In May 2009, Mayfield was suspended from the NASCAR circuit after failing a random drug test. NASCAR announced the reason for the suspension, and Mayfield filed a lawsuit.

This week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mayfield had no case because he signed two contracts waiving his right to a NASCAR lawsuit, The Associated Press reports.

Mayfield is both a professional race car driver and the principal owner of Mayfield Motorsports, Inc. As a driver, Mayfield agreed to submit to random drug tests, and to allow the results of those tests to be published. In both capacities, he signed indemnity agreements stating that he would not sue NASCAR.

Mayfield clearly forgot about those indemnity agreements when he sued NASCAR for defamation, violation of the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act, unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, and negligence.

Mayfield was peeved because NASCAR announced that he had been suspended because he took a "performance enhancing" or "recreational" drug. Mayfield alleges that these statements "were intentional, malicious, reckless and false" because he explained to NASCAR that he had ingested Claritin-D for allergies and Adderall XR for a claimed recent diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen dismissed Mayfield's NASCAR lawsuit based on the indemnity agreement. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, concluding that the liability waiver is enforceable.

With over $30.2 million in winnings since 1993, Jeremy Mayfield can afford to waste money on attorney's fees challenging an indemnity agreement; the average plaintiff cannot. Do your prospective clients a favor, and warn them that indemnity agreements pose a formidable challenge to recovery.

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