Rahal Letterman Racing has scored an initial in its legal battle with former driver Scott Sharp after a United States District Court Judge ruled that he breached his contract with the team to move to the American Le Mans Series
for the 2008 season.
RLR filed a lawsuit against Sharp and his sponsor Patron Spirits back in November alleging a breach of multi-year contract help with the team, with the lawsuit seeking damages for the breach and the team also filing an emergency motion for an injunction against the driver.
A 24-page ruling issued by County Judge Adalberto Jordan denied the injunction – which would have forced Sharp to sit out the coming season – but found that his claims of against the team of fraud, failure to provide testing, failure to perform research and development and the replacement of team members had no merit. As such, the ruling found that it was Sharp who was in breach of contract.
"It seems to me that [Sharp] has knowingly breached one agreement in order to enter another," Judge Jordan stated in the final conclusion of his ruling. "He may continue to race for Highcroft in the 2008 season, but this case shall go on, and he may pay for his choices in the end, quite literally, if a jury views the evidence as I do.
"According to the evidence presented so far, Rahal Letterman (Racing) has not committed fraud or breach of contract. If anything, it is the Sharp defendants who have breached and abandoned their contractual commitments."
Judge Jordan also analysed the evidence by saying that the team had done nothing wrong, with Sharp having 'no excuse' for violating his contract.
"The record demonstrates that Rahal Letterman (Racing) did everything basically right and worked with the Sharp defendants at all times in good faith," he said. "Therefore the Sharp defendants have no excuse for violating the restrictive covenant in the Driver Agreement.
"For these reasons, I conclude that Rahal Letterman (Racing) will likely succeed on the merits of its breach of contract claim against the Sharp defendants."
Rahal Letterman Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal admitted he was pleased with the initial findings of the hearing, adding that he was hopeful that the further proceedings would rule in favour of the team.
"We are very encouraged with Judge Jordan's rulings and hope that the remainder of the legal proceedings go as indicated in today's statement," he said. "The fact that Rahal Letterman Racing was found to be in accordance with all of its contracts and are forthright in all its dealings is a reflection on the people at our shop and on our team that worked so hard to provide a competitive car and a competitive atmosphere during last season."