ATHENS, Ga. - A University of Georgia employee who was injured in the January crash that killed football player Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy has filed a lawsuit against the UGA Athletic Association, Jalen Carter, and others.
Willock and LeCroy died in the crash on Jan. 15, just hours after the team celebrated back-to-back national championships with a parade and a ceremony.
The crash happened at around 2:45 a.m. Another staff member, Victoria Bowles, was one of two other people in the Ford Expedition driven by LeCroy who survived the high-speed crash.
In her lawsuit, Bowles' attorneys say she suffered "a spinal cord injury sufficient to cause leakage of cerebrospinal fluid," fractured her ribs, vertebrae, teeth and clavicle, lacerated her kidney and liver, and punctured her lung. She also claims that injuries to her head have left her with neurological damage.
Bowles filed the lawsuit on Wednesday and named the nonprofit UGA Athletic Association, former UGA star Jalen Carter, Carter's company Breadman Jalen, LLC, the administrator of LeCroy's estate, and five John Does as defendants.
A toxicology report indicated that LeCroy's blood alcohol was .197 at the time of the crash. The legal blood alcohol limit is .08. Authorities also stated that evidence suggested LeCroy's Expedition was traveling at about 104 miles per hour shortly before the crash.
In the filing, Bowles' lawyers say she was unaware when she got into the SUV that LeCroy "may have been illegally intoxicated" and did not know that "LeCroy and Defendant Carter would engage in street racing."
The investigation found that the SUV LeCroy was driving and Carter's vehicle were operating "in a manner consistent with racing shortly after leaving the downtown Athens area." Police say the evidence showed both LeCroy and Carter's vehicles switched lanes, drove in the center turn lane and opposite lanes of travel, and were driving at high speeds "in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other" shortly before the crash.
"During the 45 seconds or less during which LeCroy and Defendant Carter began street racing on Barnett Shoals Road, Ms. Bowles verbally protested LeCroy's speed," the filing reads. "LeCroy ignored Ms. Bowles."
Carter, the 21-year-old former defensive lineman for the Bulldogs, was charged with reckless driving and racing. He pleaded no contest to the charges in March and was sentenced to perform 80 hours of community service, pay a fine of $1,000, and serve a year of probation.
UGA has laid the blame for the crash on LeCroy. Officials there say she was not allowed to use a leased university SUV after her recruiting duties had ended. Court records indicate she had at least three speeding citations in the last seven years. Each time she was cited, she was going more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit.
The UGA Athletics Association stated the vehicle involved in the wreck was leased by the athletic department, but that its use was not authorized. Bowles' lawyer disputes that fact, sharing texts that allegedly showed LeCroy was allowed to keep the vehicle for the entire weekend. The lawsuit also contains allegations that the association knew of LeCroy's "pattern of reckless driving" and intervened to get her tickets reduced.
Bowles is seeking damages of more than $171,000 from the defendants for lost income and medical expenses.
"Tory is deeply saddened by the loss of Devin and Chandler. She greatly appreciates the continued prayers, love and support she is receiving during her difficult recovery. She would like to express her gratitude to her entire medical team, as well as Ron Courson who has worked with Tory and her physical injuries on a daily basis," Bowles' lawyer Rob Buck told FOX 5 in a statement. "Tory is disappointed that the Association and its insurers have forced her to resort to litigation to address her life-altering injuries."
This is the second lawsuit filed against the UGA Athletics Association connected with the crash.
Willock's father Dave Willock and the Willock estate filed a lawsuit against the organization, Carter, Sarchione Auto, LeCroy's estate, and strip club Toppers International in May.
You can read the full lawsuit below.
In response to the lawsuit, the University of Georgia Athletic Association released a statement saying it disputes the claims. The full statement is below:
"We are continuing to review the complaint, as plaintiff’s counsel elected to share it with the media before sharing it with us. Based on our preliminary review, we dispute its claims and will vigorously defend the Athletic Association’s interests in court.
"We stand by our prior statements regarding this matter.
"The complaint does not allege that Ms. LeCroy and Ms. Bowles were on duty or acting within the scope of their employment in the hours leading up to the accident. It claims that on some previous occasions, recruiting staff were permitted to take rental vehicles home and return them the next morning. This does not mean, however, that they were allowed to use the car for any purpose. Recruiting vehicles were to be used during recruiting activities only, personal use of the vehicles was prohibited, and recruiting staff therefore were not authorized to use the rental vehicle for their purely personal activities on the night of the accident or any other time. Under no circumstances were recruiting staff authorized to use rental cars to drive at excessive speeds while intoxicated.
"While we have patiently supported Ms. Bowles during her long and difficult recovery, we will strongly defend our position in this lawsuit."