A former University of Georgia staffer who survived the car crash that killed football player Devin Willock and fellow staffer Chandler LeCroy sued the school's athletic association and Philadelphia Eagles rookie Jalen Carter, who starred on Georgia's championship team.
Victoria Bowles, a former recruiting analyst, filed the lawsuit in Gwinnett County State Court, accusing the athletic association of negligence prior to the crash and making false statements since the Jan. 15 collision. The lawsuit also names LeCroy's estate as a defendant, according to court records obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Police say LeCroy and Carter were driving separate vehicles and racing with speeds exceeding 100 mph in the moments before the early-morning crash. According to police, the 2021 Ford Expedition driven by LeCroy crashed through two utility poles before hitting a tree and an SUV and eventually coming to rest next to an Athens apartment building.
Willock and Bowles were riding in the back seat of the SUV driven by LeCroy. Willock was thrown from the vehicle and died on the scene. LeCroy was pronounced dead after being transported to a hospital. The vehicle driven by Carter did not crash.
Bowles claims significant injuries, seeks punitive damages
Bowles survived the crash, but states in the lawsuit that she sustained multiple injuries: broken vertebrae and ribs, a fractured clavicle and broken and cracked teeth, lacerations to her kidney and liver, a punctured and collapsed lung, abdominal bleeding, neurological damage from a head injury that causes severe eye pain and a spinal-cord injury that could progress to permanent paralysis.
She seeks more than $170,000 to compensate for medical bills in addition to unspecified amounts for future expenses, wage loss and mental and physical pain and suffering. The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages.
The lawsuit states that LeCroy shouldn't have been allowed to drive the SUV, which the university rented to transport recruits during Georgia's celebration of its college football national championship. Per police, the crash occurred after the parties left a strip club in downtown Athens around 2:30 a.m. after the championship parade. Per a toxicology report released by police, LeCroy had a blood alcohol level of .197 at the time of the crash, nearly 2.5 times the legal limit in Georgia of .08.
The lawsuit states that the university overlooked LeCroy's “deplorable driving history and habitual operation of motor vehicles at high and unsafe speeds" in its decision to allow her to drive the rental car. AJC reports that LeCroy was known to have been cited for four speeding violations in six years and was subject to advanced penalties per Georgia's "super speeder" law.
Lawsuit: Athletic association statement is false
The lawsuit also challenges a statement from the UGA Athletic Association that LeCroy was not given permission to drive the vehicle for personal use. After the crash, the association released the following statement:
"Policies and expectations that were well understood by athletics staff dictated that such rental vehicles were to be turned in at the immediate conclusion of recruiting duties,” the statement reads. “Personal use was strictly prohibited."
The lawsuit contradicts that statement, claiming that supervisors had given permission to recruiting staffers to keep their vehicles overnight.
"On the evening of the Championship Celebration, LeCroy told Ms. Bowles that she [LeCroy] had 'permission' to keep the SUV 'until tomorrow,'" the lawsuit states. "Numerous text messages from recruiting staff supervisors to LeCroy, Ms. Bowles and other staff members show the Association's statement is false.
"Recruiting staff were regularly informed they could leave their personal vehicles overnight at the Butts-Mehre football facility and permissively use Association rental vehicles through a specified cut-off date and time, unrelated to their assigned recruiting activity duties."
The athletic association released a statement Thursday addressing the lawsuit and its claims.
“We are reviewing the complaint, but we dispute its claims and will defend the Athletic Association’s interests in court,” the statement reads.
Lawsuit: Carter 'jointly responsible'
The lawsuit seeks damages from Carter, claiming he is "jointly responsible for the crash."
AJC reported after the crash that Carter left the scene before emergency personnel arrived and returned when a Georgia staffer relayed a request from police for him to do so. His attorney, Kim Stephens, wrote in a statement, "Carter never left the scene of the accident without being told that he could leave."
The lawsuit states that Carter “was jointly responsible for the crash and had a legal duty to remain on the scene. Instead, in part obviously fearful of bad publicity and the effect on his NFL Draft status, he hoped not to be questioned or take any responsibility for his actions.”
Carter was a first-team All-American at Georgia. The Eagles traded up to select him with the No. 9 pick in April's NFL Draft. He pleaded no contest to charges of misdemeanor reckless driving and racing related to the crash. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, perform 80 hours of community service and complete a driving course.
An attorney for Carter didn't immediately respond to an AJC request for comment Thursday. A representative of LeCroy's estate declined comment. The lawsuit is the second filed against the athletic association related to the crash. Willock's father, Dave Willock, is seeking $40 million in damages in a lawsuit that also names Carter, among other defendants.