Venus Williams accuses 78-year-old man killed in crash of not wearing seat belt

Court documents provide tennis star's defense in wrongful-death lawsuit

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Venus Williams is fighting back against a wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the tennis star, claiming that she isn't responsible for the death of a 78-year-old man after a crash last month near her South Florida home.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Robert E. Paradela, who represents Williams in the civil lawsuit, is demanding the autopsy report and medical records of Jerome Barson, who died two weeks after a June 9 collision with Williams' Toyota Sequoia SUV in Palm Beach Gardens, court records filed Friday show.

Barson's 68-year-old wife, Linda, was driving the Hyundai Accent that slammed into the side of Williams' SUV.

Initially, witnesses told police that Williams ran a red light, but police later said that surveillance video from the guard gate of a nearby residential community showed that Williams "lawfully entered the intersection."

Police have not yet made a final determination as to who was at fault.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Jerome and Linda Barson claims that Williams, 37, was negligent behind the wheel. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, as well as funeral and medical expenses.

Recent court documents counter the lawsuit's claims, accusing Jerome Barson of not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

The court documents also take aim at Linda Barson's claims of "severe traumatic injuries" as a result of the crash.

Paradela argues that Florida law "does not provide for the recovery of damages for the personal injury of a surviving spouse." Therefore, Paradela argues, Linda Barson's injuries are "immaterial and impertinent" to the lawsuit.

Williams' attorney also argues that Jerome and Linda Barson "failed to adequately maintain and repair" their car.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion cried when questioned recently by reporters at Wimbledon about the crash.

"I'm completely speechless," she said earlier this month.

Williams lost to Garbine Muguruza in the Wimbledon finals.

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