Devin Willock's father files lawsuit against UGA Athletic Association, Jalen Carter & others

The father of Devin Willock and his estate are seeking $40 million in a wrongful death civil lawsuit as damages for the Jan. 15 crash that killed the Georgia football offensive lineman.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday in State Court in Gwinnett County lists the UGA Athletic Association, former Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, the estate of recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy and Toppers International Showbar in downtown Athens among the defendants, according to a copy obtained Wednesday by the Athens Banner-Herald.

Police said LeCroy and Carter were racing hours after a national championship celebration on Barnett Shoals Road. LeCroy was killed in the crash when the 2021 Ford Expedition she was driving lost control at about 2:45 a.m. after police said she driving at more than 104 miles per hour and with a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit.

Willock was a passenger in the UGA-leased vehicle driven by LeCroy. Offensive lineman Warren McClendon and recruiting staffer Tory Bowles were also passengers and sustained injuries in the crash.

The defendant in the lawsuit filed by lawyers for Dave Willock also include Sarchione Automotive, Inc which gave Carter the 2021 Jeep Trackhawk he was racing as part of an NIL deal. They claim the Ohio-based company was “negligent in supervising and retaining Carter’s use of the Trackhawk as one of their promotional athletes.”

At the time of the crash Carter was driving on a suspended license due to failing to complete a defensive driving course for a speeding ticket issued on July 23, 2022, the lawsuit says. Carter plead no contest to charges of reckless driving and racing connected to the crash and received one year's probation.

Summons were also issued for UGA recruiting staffers Logen Reed and Anna Courson and football staffer Bryant Gantt. The lawsuit claims that Reed and Courson, as direct supervisors to LeCroy and Bowles, told them where to pick up their assigned SUVs and their keys or fobs. Bowles was assigned a red Chevy Tahoe and LeCroy the 2021 Ford Expedition leased by UGA athletics.

LeCroy was using the UGAAA "assigned vehicle for the purposes permitted and directed by the UGAAA at the time of the crash,” the lawsuit claims, “and she was reckless, negligent, negligent per se, wilful, wanton and consciously indifferent to consequences in her operation of that vehicle while her judgment was substantially impaired by alcohol and while she was street racing at over 104 mph with Jalen Carter to a nearby Waffle House.”

They say that Reed, Courson and Gannt were aware of multiple speeding tickets LeCroy had on her record and that Reed was in the car with LeCroy when she received a super-speeder ticket in Morgan County in October 2022. They say Gantt unsuccessfully tried to plea down or reduce the ticket on LeCroy’s behalf.

LeCroy and Bowles “were told and texted during the 2021 National Championship Celebration and Recruiting weekends in the Fall of 2022 that they could and should keep leased vehicles all weekend, including overnight, until all recruits and recruit families left Athens, GA, and to keep their phones charged in case they were needed to transport their assigned recruit or another analyst’s recruit or family members, coaches, or others to and from weekend recruiting activities.” They were given the same instructions for this year’s national championship celebration weekend.

The lawsuit claims alcohol was consumed by some attendees at a recruiting dinner at Sakura restaurant that Bowles and LeCroy attended on Jan. 14. Bowles was assigned to host a recruit from Jefferson and LeCroy a recruit from Texas. Georgia assistant coaches Glenn Schumman, Chidera Uzo-Diribe and family and a friend of the Texas recruit also attended. Schumann took the Tahoe to go to another event and Bowles told LeCroy she needed to ride with her.

The lawsuit claims that Bowles and LeCroy later went to Toppers to join in a celebration there, but separated in the club and that Willock and Bowles did not know the amount of alcohol LeCroy drank.

The lawsuit says LeCroy drank shots at Toppers while there for more than an hour and that employees of the club should have known that she was noticeably intoxicated.

“Toppers employees were overserving players and their guests, including providing them free drinks, shots, and free champagne bottles as part of the National Championship Celebration at the club that night,” the lawsuit said.

It claims that passengers of her vehicle implored LeCroy to slow down when they left one Waffle House they stopped at before deciding to go to another Waffle House and in the seconds before the crash. McClendon told police he was looking at his phone prior to the crash, but did not know how fast the vehicle was going, according to what he told police in an interview in documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald.

The lawsuit alleges in the days preceding the championship celebration LeCroy, Bowles and other recruiting staffers were told the weekend would be busy and “not their own time and that they should expect to be working all weekend days and late into the night transporting recruits, recruit families, coaches, and players to and from National Championship Celebration sites in the Athens area as required by the UGAAA.”

Dave Willock alleges that alcohol was provided and served as celebration and recruiting events that weekend hosted by UGA athletics and that LeCroy and Bowles were told they were to drive the UGA-issued SUVs to transport coaches, recruits and families to restaurants and homes for celebration and recruiting activities.

UGA athletics late Wednesday afternoon issued a statement about the lawsuit: “The attorneys who filed the Complaint have refused to provide any factual basis for their claims against the Athletic Association, and we believe the evidence will prove them to be without merit. We intend to strongly dispute these baseless allegations in Court.”

It said last month when a legal notice from Willock’s lawyer was sent to UGA that said the claims were “full of inaccuracies,” and that the “university disputes them in the strongest terms.” It added “as we have made clear, personal use of vehicles rented for recruiting activities was strictly prohibited. Ms. LeCroy was not engaged in athletic department duties around the time of the accident, and her personal use of the car after her recruiting duties ended earlier that evening was therefore unauthorized.”

Attorneys for Darlene Willock, Devin’s mother, filed a petition March 2 in Athens-Clarke County Probate Court to appoint her as personal administrator of Devin Willock’s estate.

Dave Willock filed his own petition in Probate Court March 20 and objected to her appointment as administrator of the estate March 28 on her petition, saying they should be appointed as co-administrators or a court administrator should be appointed. Susan Huff, staff attorney for the probate court, said Wednesday a personal representative for the estate has yet to be appointed by the court.

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Devin Willock's father files lawsuit against UGA Athletic Association