Palou’s legal team requests to move Ganassi lawsuit to federal court

Alex Palou’s legal team has filed a motion requesting to have the lawsuit filed against its client and his company moved from state to federal jurisdiction in Indiana.

The Notice of Removal motion, which was filed on Friday, appeared on the docket Monday morning, and according to the insights provided to RACER by an IndyCar-loving lawyer who has followed the case since it came to light last week, there are two main reasons Palou’s lawyers would make such a request.

The first would be to take the case out of local jurisdiction and into the hands of a federal judge which, for a driver who is a native of Spain and is being sued in the home state of the Chip Ganassi Racing team which has filed the lawsuit, might be done to remove any concerns about a local judge being impartial toward their client. CGR’s lawyers filed the lawsuit in Marion County, IN, which is where the team is based.

Palou’s lawyers have asked for the affair to be handled by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, which is also based in Marion County, but adheres to federal policy in ways the driver’s lawyers might hope are more sympathetic to their case than local courts would be with a foreign person and foreign business being sued by a domestic and in-state company.

The second reasoning for the requested shift to federal court could be to slow the process down, according to the lawyer’s read on the situation. With CGR’s lawyers pressing for a fast deposition of Palou under oath in court this week and the rapid handover of discovery materials from McLaren Racing and Arrow McLaren SP — assuming Palou’s signed contract with McLaren was among the documents it sought — the call to try and elevate the case to the federal level could lead to a more drawn-out process. Planned meetings between the local court and lawyers and Palou’s in-person deposition have been cancelled while the federal request is handled.

CGR’s lawyers can challenge the attempt by filing a Motion for Remand to try and keep the case in its original location, and has 30 days to make its case to try and prevent Palou’s lawyers from having success with its Notice of Removal. If Palou’s lawyers get the case moved to federal court, RACER is told CGR’s lawyers would need to re-file its original Motion for Preliminary Injunction complaint against Palou and his company ALPA Racing once a new judge is assigned.

Although the local court has granted CGR’s wishes to have the complaint sealed, there’s no guarantee a federal judge would do the same.

Despite the contents of the lawsuit being sealed, Palou’s lawyers outlined some of what CGR is seeking from theur client in its motions to have the matter moved away from the Marion County Superior Court.

“Plaintiff brings, among other claims, clams for breach of contract and seeks as remedies injunctive relief and specific performance, seeking to force Alex Palou to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing, LLC in the 2023 IndyCar Season,” they wrote.

“Here, at a minimum, the contracts that Plaintiff purport to seek to enforce are worth in excess of the jurisdictional threshold of $75,000. Further, the amount at stake for Plaintiff is at least the value of Alex Palou’s driving efforts in 2023 and Defendants’ pecuniary stake in complying with Plaintiff’s requested relief is, at least, the difference in value between Alex Palou’s potential contract payments from Ganassi for 2023 and potential contract payments earned by racing for different racing team for the 2023 season and beyond.”

Although the filing includes phrasing that suggests CGR intends to force Palou to drive for its team, it’s understood the team is seeking to have its contract with Palou for 2023 found to be the only valid contract, superseding the contract Palou signed with McLaren Racing for 2023. By law, Palou cannot be forced by CGR, McLaren, or any team to drive its cars.

Palou’s lawyers also revealed the possibility of seeking damages from CGR for defamation.

“Additionally, Defendants currently anticipate asserting non-contractual counterclaims, including at least for defamation,” they wrote. “The damages Defendants will seek on these counterclaims will exceed $75,000.”