Sharon Love files suit against UVA, coaches

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Photo credit: Nick Strocchia

The mother of slain UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love has filed another civil suit in the death her daughter, this time against the University of Virginia, its athletic director, and two UVA men’s lacrosse coaches, saying they should have stopped George Huguely’s violent behavior before he beat Love to death two years ago.

The wrongful death suit, published on the NBC29 News website, names men’s lacrosse head coach Dom Starsia, associate coach Marc van Arsdale, UVA Athletics Director Craig Littlepage, and the University as a whole, named in the suit as the Commonwealth of Virginia (legal documents explain the state is liable through the Tort Claims Act as the employer of the parties named).

Love is seeking $29.45 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, on top of a $30 million suit filed last week against 24-year-old George Huguely, convicted earlier this spring of murdering Yeardley Love two years ago this week. Huguely is awaiting an Aug. 30 sentencing.

The latest filing claims that contrary to University policy, UVA athletic officials failed to discipline Huguely for multiple documented alcohol-related offenses and violent outbursts.

The suit alleges a number of alcohol-fueled attacks by Huguely on other students, and claims Huguely’s coaches knew all about the incidents.

A Washington Post story on the suit quotes a spokesman for Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli as saying the suit hadn’t yet been served on defendants, but that if it is, “we will vigorously defend the case.”

Charlottesville civil attorney H. Robert Yates III said the latest filing isn’t unexpected, “but I don’t know that it’s going to have merit.”

Virginia law says that to prove liability in a wrongful death suit of this kind, there would have to have been a “special relationship” between Huguely and the defendants, in which the defendants would have been expected to have the duty to control him. In addition, plaintiffs would have to prove that the defendants were aware Huguely posed an imminent danger to Love—not just a potential danger.

Yates said the dollar amount in any given civil suit is limited by statutes, but the family is essentially trying to put a dollar amount on their suffering in the wake of the loss of their daughter.

“It’s up to a jury to decide how much to give, and there’s no magic formula for that,” Yates said. But because the jury can’t award more than the damages claimed in the suit, the figure named is typically well in excess of what a jury is likely to give. “The number you ask for is the ceiling,” Yates said.

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