Nature’s Bakery, Stewart-Haas Racing to go before mediator

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Nature’s Bakery and Stewart-Haas Racing will have a mediator hear their issues Wednesday, court documents show.

If that session is unsuccessful, both sides agree to a second mediation session that will occur 30 days after all summary judgment motions and briefs are filed.

The requests were part of a joint case management report filed Friday.

Also in the filing, Nature’s Bakery has requested that a North Carolina Superior Court judge set the trial date for after the 2018 season, stating in court documents Friday that some evidence will not be available until then.

Stewart-Haas Racing has requested that a trial take place as early as later this summer.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit Feb. 3 against Nature’s Bakery. The amount comes from $15.2 million Nature’s Bakery was to have paid to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team in 2017 and ’18, along with other costs. Nature’s Bakery sponsored Patrick in 2016.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim that it did not see the return it was led to believe as Patrick’s sponsor. Nature’s Bakery terminated its three-year agreement with the team in January.

In its summary of the issues, Stewart-Haas Racing stated: “Defendants repeatedly renegotiated the timing of payments because, despite promises to the contrary, they apparently could not afford to make the payments. After being bought (in part) by a private equity group, Defendants seemingly lost interest in the sponsorship. Immediately following the end of the 2016 race season, Defendants concocted a long list of fictitious reasons to try to justify terminating the contract, and then terminated the contract with two years and over $30 million remaining owed to SHR.”

In its summary, Nature’s Bakery stated: “Nature’s Bakery would be one of the smallest, if not the smallest, lead sponsor in NASCAR history. In exchange, SHR and Ms. Patrick were to exclusively endorse Nature’s Bakery products and provide other services, including broad social media outreach to help promote the brand. Barely six months into the relationship, SHR and Patrick could not or would not fulfill their obligations under the Agreement. Ms. Patrick was endorsing confusingly similar brands and products, and SHR was unable to obtain her cooperation. … At trial, Nature’s Bakery will seek, inter alia, to void the Agreement based on SHR’s misrepresentations and for declaratory relief that it owes no further money to SHR based on SHR’s own breaches and failures to mitigate.’’

Stewart-Haas previously stated that Patrick endorsed Six Star Pro Nutrition’s protein powder and that it was not a competing product.

Also in the court filing, Nature’s Bakery is contemplating filing a motion to amend its counterclaims to “assert additional allegations  or counterclaims, and/or to add additional parties. Because the contemplated amendments depend on discovery not yet obtained from SHR and third parties, including Ms. Patrick, Nature’s Bakery respectfully requests that it be permitted the opportunity to amend at any time within three months of the entry of the Case Management Order.’’

Stewart-Haas Racing stated it would like Nature’s Bakery to file any motions within 30 days of the Case Management Order.

Read Joint Case Management Report