Hands on a Hardbody: Texas Dealership Settles Case Over Suicide in Truck Contest

Now here is an interesting torts lawsuit. Patterson Nissan car dealership of Longview, Texas settled a lawsuit filed by Chalala Gutierrez, the widow of Richard Thomas Vega II. Vega committed suicide after dropping out of a contest in which contestants tried to keep their hand on a truck the longest. When he lost the “Hands on a Hardbody” contest, he walked across the street, stole a gun, and shot himself.

The case seems like a legal version of Sydney Pollack’s 1969 movie, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?
The contest was for a Nissan truck and other prizes and contestants were allowed only limited breaks during the 48 hour event. Vega let go just before one of those breaks. Upset, he broke into a Kmart store and stole the gun that he used to kill himself.

The lawsuit suit alleged negligence in the organizing of the contest and accused the dealership of a type of “brainwashing” where contestants “temporarily lost their sanity.” She sought $600,000 and court costs.

This is a considerable stretch for tort law. It is true that in cases like Weirum v. RKO, a radio station was liable for injuries caused to a third party when kids raced to catch a disk jockey (The Real Don Steele) in a van. The court found the resulting accident to be foreseeable. That decision, at the time, was controversial. However, even under a Weirum analysis, I cannot imagine how foreseeable a burglary and suicide would be in such a contest. If this was a foreseeable, Kmart could conceivably sue the dealership for the burglary. This would seem a clear case of a superseding intervening act in proximate cause.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed and the contest has been discontinued. For the full story, click here.

6 thoughts on “Hands on a Hardbody: Texas Dealership Settles Case Over Suicide in Truck Contest”

  1. Who kills themselves over a Nissan. And if u already stole a gun then walk back across the street and have ur pick of cars.

  2. oh and the documentary (filmed in 97 so not sold anymore but you can get it off ebay) is so funny. watch the movie and tell me the toothless ladys husband is not funny. they bought their AC unit off a bankrupt store and he talks about hou it will take their house down to -12 Farenhieght :):):):):):):):):):):) roflmao

  3. ther was a lawsuit filed but the results are confidential all we know is that his wife got her settlement.
    as far as im concerned it was nissans fault you can spend 15 minutes on utube and find out enough to know tha sleeplessness is harmfull but the dealership to no saftey precautions

    oh the radio contest with the water was for a nintendo wii

  4. Seems there was a morning show a while back that challenged listeners to a “water drinking contest” and a woman died after she drank two gallons of water, or something thereabouts. My wife, the nurse, explained the chemistry behind what happens when you do that, but I forgot it four seconds later. Suffice it to say the radio station nor the DJ’s had any clue that would occur (let’s hope anyway).

    Does anyone know what happened in the resulting lawsuit? If there was one filed? I assume, since our nature is to blame everyone else for what happens…

    This case above smacks of lack of sense to let it go to trial, but our system amazes me every day it seems. It’s not perfect, but we could at least TRY to perfect it…

    Dundar, Nissan has several manufacturing facilities in the US that employ thousands of Americans. And their suppliers employ thousands more domestically… I fought these sentiments frequently as Corp Mktg Mgr for a Toyota Industrial Equipment dealership. Long ago, importers realized they could grow better by producing locally…and so the story goes. Toyotas have more domestically produced parts than many “American” brands…

  5. Why would you enter a contest to win a Nissan anyway? I can see entering a contest for an American built car, but a Nissan?

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