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While Venus Williams was competing for a Wimbledon title, her lawyers were competing behind the scenes on a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the tennis star. Although police cleared Williams of responsibility in a car accident in Florida that ultimately claimed the life of Jerome Barson, Barson's widow and family sued, and discovery in the case is beginning to heat up.
The Daily Mail reports that Barson's family is requesting Williams's driving records, car insurance documents, and phone bills for the month of June, along with information regarding any and all medications she may have taken before the fatal crash.
No Criminal Liability
Surveillance video showed Williams entering an intersection -- "lawfully" according to Palm Beach Gardens police -- before a car driven by Linda Barson struck the side Williams's SUV. Jerome suffered a fractured spine, massive internal organ damage, and internal bleeding, and died two weeks after the accident.
The police released a statement when they declined to rule Williams at fault for the crash:
"Based on the evidence obtained in the ongoing investigation, it has been determined the vehicle driven by Venus Williams lawfully entered the intersection on a circular green traffic signal, and attempted to travel north through the intersection to Ballenisles Drive. As Williams was traveling through the intersection, a Nissan Altima entered the intersection traveling south, and made a left turn in front of Williams' vehicle, causing her to stop advancing through the intersection to avoid a collision. The traffic signal then cycled to green, at which time Barson continued westbound and entered the intersection. The front end of Barson's vehicle collided the right front of Williams' vehicle."
Possible Civil Liability
As is often the case, a civil lawsuit followed in the absence of criminal charges, and with civil lawsuits comes discovery. According to the Daily Mail, lawyers for Barson's family are requesting all car title and registration information along with Williams's driving record for the past seven years, along with a list and any billing information for smartphones and devices owned by Williams.
Although Williams allegedly admitted to trying to cross the intersection before traffic in front of her slowed down, police do not believe drugs, alcohol, or a phone distraction played a role in the accident. But it could come down to a judge or jury deciding whether Williams was negligent in causing the accident, and therefore Barson's death.