Published August 17, 2008
A Texas car dealership has settled a lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who killed himself after dropping out of a contest in which participants tried to keep their hand on a vehicle the longest.
Details of the settlement between Patterson Nissan of Longview, in east Texas, and Chalala Gutierrez, the wife of contestant Richard Thomas Vega II, are confidential, officials said.
The suit, settled Thursday, focused on a 2005 contest in which the winner of the "Hands on a Hardbody" contest was awarded a Nissan truck and other prizes.
Just before a scheduled rest break 48 hours into the event, Vega dropped out, crossed a street and broke into a Kmart store, where he took a gun from a case and shot himself.
In her suit, Gutierrez alleged that the dealership was negligent in organizing and conducting the contest. She likened Vega and other contestants' stress and sleep deprivation to "brainwashing" and said the dealership failed to provide a safe environment for contestants who "temporarily lost their sanity."
Court documents show damages sought included fneral costs, lost income of about $600,000 and court costs.
Attorney Adam Allen said the dealership was happy with the result. An attorney for Gutierrez said the settlement resolved all the allegations in the lawsuit.
The contest was featured in a 1990s documentary by the same name. It has not been restaged since Vega's death.