Motocross Star’s Wrongful Death Case Settled

SAN DIEGO (CN) – The family of late motocross star Jim McNeil settled their wrongful death claim for the accident that claimed his life during practice for a freestyle NASCAR event.

McNeil died in 2011 when he slammed into an “unguarded landing ramp” while practicing a jump over a motor home. His family claimed the props had been negligently set up for a NASCAR event at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

NASCAR was not a party to the lawsuit.

Settlement terms were not disclosed in the Thursday order granting the joint motion to dismiss.

McNeil’s wife, Stephanie Berkes, and parents, Sharell and John McNeil, all of Arizona, sued the motocross rider’s sponsors FreestyleMx.com, its president Mark Burnett, Boost Mobile and Sprint/United Management Co. in 2013, in San Diego Superior Court. Boost Mobile and Sprint were terminated as defendants in April 2014.

The case was removed to federal court shortly after it was filed.

McNeil had been riding for the defendants since 2002, and had participated in at least 250 shows. He was an independent contractor who provided his own motorcycle and safety gear.

Motocross sport generates $42 billion annually and is responsible for more than 700,000 American jobs, according to industry publications.

Motocross riders who rode for the defendants jumped their motorcycles over a motor home and landed on ramps provided and set up by the defendants, according to the McNeils’ lawsuit. They said FreestyleMx.com failed to equip the landing ramp with airbags to, which was an industry standard at the time. A fellow rider testified that he believed the normal 3-foot-gap between the landing ramp and motor home was larger than usual.

In a motion for summary this year, FreestyleMx.com claimed it owed no legal duty to protect McNeil from catastrophic injury and death, as those are inherent risks in the sport. That motion was denied.

The parties filed a notice of settlement in May, vacating a June trial date set by U.S. District Magistrate Judge Nita Stormes. But apparently they had trouble reaching a final settlement, as court documents show they met repeatedly to address disputes.

The McNeils were represented by James Mitchell with Payne Mitchell Law Group in Dallas; Freestylemx.com by Joshua Bordin-Wosk with Bordin Martorell of Los Angeles.

Neither party responded to requests for comment.