Legal Arguments Made in NASCAR Drug Suspension Case

Aug 28, 2009

The idea of basing a reality show on the saga of suspended NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield has almost certainly crossed the mind of some producer, somewhere.
The show would be an instant hit, given the fact that it involves drugs, methamphetamines, a seemingly unpredictable step mom and NASCAR, a professional sports entity with unprecedented fan support.
Until then, interested observers may have to settle for the developing legal subplot.
The impetus for the litigation was Mayfield’s suspension in the wake of a failed drug test on May 1. Mayfield then sued NASCAR and the testing laboratory for negligence, breach of contract, and defamation. NASCAR, represented by Boies, Schiller & Flexner, countersued Mayfield for fraud, breach of contract and other claims, and is seeking repayment of past prize monies.
The litigation took a turn last week when Mayfield’s legal team filed a brief in federal court, which argued against NASCAR’s request that the court reconsider an injunction that lifted Mayfield’s suspension.
NASCAR had based its argument for lifting the injunction on the fact that Mayfield failed another drug test on July 6. Mayfield has maintained that his positive test was related to the prescription drug Adderall, which he used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the allergy medication Claritin-D.
NASCAR doesn’t buy it.
And late last month, it convinced the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the injunction until it can hear arguments this fall.
“This is an important decision for NASCAR, the drivers, and especially the fans,” said BS&F’s Armonk Partner Helen Maher. “NASCAR’s right to enforce its substance abuse policy is integral to maintaining a safe environment for NASCAR races.”
BS&F, which is based in New York City, has represented NASCAR in several high-profile matters, including its recent summary judgment victory in an antitrust suit brought by Kentucky Speedway. That ruling was appealed by the Speedway and will be argued by the firm’s Chairman David Boies on July 30, 2009 before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We believe a sports league is entitled to enforce substance abuse policy,” Maher told Sports Litigation Alert, emphasizing NASCAR’s need “to protect its participants.”
One key differentiator between the Mayfield litigation and drug-related litigation in other professional sports leagues is that there is no union for participants in NASCAR. This could heighten the importance of the court’s involvement in the instant litigation as well as alter the relationship between NASCAR and its drivers in the future.
Up until now, that relationship has been unique.
“NASCAR has a very open policy when it comes to listening to drivers, teams and owners,” pointed out Maher.


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