LEXINGTON, N.C. -- A judge ruled Wednesday that the public
can see all the previously sealed exhibits introduced as evidence
in a lawsuit pitting the owner of Dale Earnhardt's racing team and
the insurance company that refused to pay when he died.
Judge Kimberly Taylor lifted a previous court order that sealed
exhibits introduced in the trial. The only exhibit that remained
unavailable is an unedited copy of Earnhardt's contract with
Richard Childress Racing, which was replaced by a version with five
of eight pages blacked out at the request of the plaintiffs.
The decision came in response to a motion seeking access to the
exhibits filed by The Associated Press, The Charlotte Observer,
NASCAR Scene and the North Carolina Press Association. Unsealed
exhibits were expected to be available for review Thursday, clerk
of court Brian Shipwash said.
Richard Childress Racing, Earnhardt's employer, was required to
carry $7.2 million in insurance to cover the driver's base salary,
according to a portion of Earnhardt's edited contract. That
included $3.7 million with insurer United of Omaha, which RCR
claims cheated widow Teresa Earnhardt out of the payment after
Earnhardt's death in a last-lap crash of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
RCR took out the policy and is pursuing the matter on the
family's behalf. Another insurer has already paid a $3.5 million
United of Omaha claims the policy was never valid for Earnhardt
because he had not taken a required physical.
Also on Wednesday, the plaintiffs rested their case by
presenting another expert saying the insurer should have honored
the $3.7 million claim.
Brian Tilden, a consultant who teaches courses about life
insurance, testified that mistakes made by the agent who took
Earnhardt's life insurance application made the insurer responsible
for full coverage.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Stephen Coles,
Tilden acknowledged that Earnhardt never made himself available for
the physical examination. He testified he knew of no other case in
which an insurance company paid a full claim if an applicant did
not fulfill requirements.