LEXINGTON, N.C. -- A judge ruled in favor of the late Dale
Earnhardt's car owner Monday, saying an insurance company failed to
share legal documents in the case over whether benefits should have
been paid after the NASCAR star's death.
Earnhardt died Feb. 18, 2001, in a last-lap crash in the Daytona
Superior Court Judge Kimberly S. Taylor issued the order against
United of Omaha Life Insurance Co. following 12 days of
Taylor declined Richard Childress Racing's request to enter a
default judgment of $3.7 million, plus interest, and triple that
amount as allowed under state law.
Jurors will return Tuesday to hear arguments about whether RCR
is entitled to the monetary damages. Last week, attorneys for both
sides discovered the legal department of Mutual of Omaha, the
parent company of defendant United of Omaha Life Insurance Co.,
failed to share 18 pages of relevant documents before trial.
Omaha Life attorney Stephen Coles asked Taylor to consider
lesser sanctions and allow RCR attorneys to re-examine defense
"I just don't see any way to remedy this situation," Taylor
said. "We all know this should have been provided to the
Childress Racing claims United of Omaha failed to conduct a
proper investigation before deciding not to pay the claim.
The insurer denied the claim because several policy
requirements, including a physical, were never completed.
Childress Racing took out the policy on Earnhardt's behalf and
made a $5,000 payment in January 2001.
The policy was part of $7.2 million in benefits, according to
the driver's contract, which was described in court. A $3.5 million
policy with a second insurer, set up in 1996, was paid to Childress
Racing and signed over to Earnhardt's widow, Teresa.