A Dade County, Florida jury deliberated for a little over an hour before sending Emerson Fittipaldi to the pits, sidelining the former race car champion’s breach of contract suit against one of his proteges, Helio Castroneves.
Fittipaldi and his company Fittipaldi USA, Inc. had alleged that Castroneves had breached a management agreement in November of 1999, and that he was entitled to $8 million, or a substantial portion of Castroneves’ revenues since the agreement was terminated. Castroneves, racing with the Penske team, has won the Indianapolis 500 twice since severing ties with Fittipaldi.
The two men entered into the agreement in June of 1997. Castroneves’ attorney, Larry Stumpf of Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf, alleged in a trial brief that Fittipaldi took advantage of the then 22-year-old Brazilian race car driver with a “false sales pitch.” The agreement called for Fittipaldi to “manage, supervise, enhance and guide” Castroneves’ career as well as procure sponsorships for him.
In the brief, Stumpf suggested the promises were “gross misrepresentations.”
Among the arguments made by Castroneves’ attorney were that Fittipaldi placed the young driver on a “lower-level” Mercedes team “solely to further his relationship” with the German car maker. In addition, he alleged on behalf of his client that Fittipaldi’s failure to obtain sponsorship funds for the aforementioned team as well as another team resulted in those teams being shuttered and Castroneves being without a job.
“For these reasons alone, Castroneves had much more than the requisite ‘reasonable cause’ to terminate the management agreement when he did so in November 1999,” according to the brief.
The jury agreed, concluding that Fittipaldi had no claim to any of Castroneves’ earnings after Castroneves terminated the contract.