If you go to celebrity trials just to watch the cars crash, former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield will not disappoint you. Mayfield has been hit with a $1 million damage award in favor of postal worker Mary E. Bolton who was attacked by Mayfield’s five dog, pit bull/Labrador mixes. It is an interesting case and one more problem for Mayfield who is facing a major drug prosecution.
Judge William Z. Wood of Forsyth Superior Court awarded Bolton the money after Mayfield failed to fail an answer or appear in defense of the claim. The case derived from an attack in 2011. Bolton had a package that was too big to fit in the post box. While there were signs reading “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog,” Bolton entered the property and was attacked by the dogs. The dogs are allowed to roam freely on the large parcel of property.
It is not clear from accounts how much of the verdict was simply based on default and how much on true fault. Here the postal worker entered despite the signs. Is it negligence to allow dogs to roam on your property if the property is posted? A trial would have raised some interesting question of whether the worker violated regulations in entering posted property and whether there is an assumption or comparative negligence defense. There is also the question whether the dogs had already demonstrated a vicious propensity to trigger strict liability. Since Mayfield did not answer the complaint, there was presumably no discovery done in the case.
Mayfield has not helped himself by publicly stating that he decided not to hire a lawyer because he doesn’t have the money. He is quoted as saying “If I had a $1 million to give away, I wouldn’t be in this situation.” The house was auctioned off for his failure to pay $3 million owed on the property. His statements rule out a motion to vacate the judgment and for a trial under these circumstances.
At this point, he appears to have decided that he is already effectively bankrupted and thus this award will simply be thrown on the pile. Presumably, he paid his criminal defense counsel before melting down financially.