Lawsuit against Michael Waltrip Racing can go to trial

Lawsuit against Michael Waltrip Racing can go to trial, judge rules

A pit crew member's wrongful-firing lawsuit against Michael Waltrip Racing can go to trial, a judge ruled last Wednesday (5-31-2017).

In a 69-page opinion, Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Louis Bledsoe III allowed all of former tire changer Brandon Hopkins' termination claims to be heard by a jury. The judge also let some of Hopkins' claims against Michael Waltrip Racing and a team official for conduct after his firing to proceed to trial.

While finding that a number of facts remain in dispute, Bledsoe dismissed Hopkins' defamation claims and Michael Waltrip Racing's counterclaims accusing Hopkins of stealing pit crew tools and misappropriating trade secrets about one of the tools.

Hopkins sued the now-defunct Cornelius (NC)-based motorsports team in 2015. He claims he was fired after taking a leave for surgery from a shoulder injury he suffered when he was hit by a car during a NASCAR race.

He contends team officials "blacklisted" him after his surgery by falsely accusing him of stealing a pit gun used to remove lug nuts.

As a result, he lost an unpaid internship with another NASCAR Sprint Cup team and paid work with a NASCAR Truck Series team, Hopkins says in the lawsuit filed by Charlotte lawyer Joshua Van Kampen in Mecklenburg County Superior Court.

Charlotte lawyer Bill Diehl, who is defending Michael Waltrip Racing, has declined to comment about the lawsuit, saying: "We don't try our case in the newspaper."

--- Charlotte Observer ---