FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tennis star Venus Williams is being sued by the estate of a Florida man who died after a car crash police say she caused.
An attorney representing the family of Jerome Barson, 78, filed the lawsuit Friday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, seeking unspecified damages. The lawsuit came one day after Palm Beach Gardens police released a report saying Williams caused the June 9 crash that left Barson with a fractured spine and numerous internal injuries. He died June 22.
Attorney Michael Steinger accuses Williams, 37, of running a red light, failing to yield the right-of way, inattentive driving and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. He said Barson, a retired teacher who had moved to South Florida from Philadelphia in 1975, had been in good health and preparing to go on a Disney cruise with his wife of 33 years, Linda, three children and 13 grandchildren.
He said Linda Barson, who suffered several fractures to her right arm and hand in the crash, is “physically and emotionally devastated.”
“This was the love of her life that she spent every day with. They did everything together,” Steinger said.
Williams’ attorney, Malcolm Cunningham, did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press. The Palm Beach Post quoted him as saying only that he was aware of the lawsuit. Williams has not been cited or charged. Police say she was not drunk, on drugs or texting, but that she drove into the Barsons’ path.
Investigators say witnesses and Linda Barson, who was driving, told them Williams’ 2010 Toyota Sequoia SUV crossed in front of the Barsons’ 2016 Hyundai Accent after the couple’s light turned green. The Accent smashed into the side of the Sequoia.
Williams, who owns a home near the crash site, told investigators her light was green when she entered the six-lane intersection but she got stopped midpoint by traffic and didn’t see the Barsons’ car before she crossed their lane.
Steinger said he believes there may be video of the crash captured by surveillance cameras at the guard houses protecting Williams’ neighborhood. He said police and the neighborhood association have refused to confirm whether the video exists.
Palm Beach Gardens Maj. Paul Rogers said the investigation is ongoing, and by law he cannot release further information.
Steinger said he accepts that Williams’ involvement in the crash perhaps has made the police investigation slower than it might have been.
“They are trying to do the best job they can and make sure they have everything covered before they release the information and make a determination” as to whether charges should be brought, he said.
Williams is now in England preparing to play in Wimbledon, a tournament that accounts for five of her career seven Grand Slam wins. She is seeded 10th. Her younger sister, Serena Williams, the world’s fourth-ranked women’s player, is sitting out the tournament as she is pregnant with her first child.
Venus Williams has career on-court earnings of more than $34 million and her own clothing line, EleVen. According to Forbes Magazine, she also has endorsement deals with Ralph Lauren, Kraft foods, Tide detergent and Wilson sporting goods.