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Venus Williams fatal crash: Lawyers fighting for tennis star's phone
One year after Venus Williams was in a crash that killed a passenger in another car, and more than five months after police cleared the tennis star, she continues to face allegations she was using her smartphone while driving.
Attorneys for the estate of the man who died are again demanding Williams turn over her Apple iPhone 6S Plus so it can be examined in a wrongful death civil lawsuit.
The 37-year-old tennis pro denies she was driving distracted and has refused to give up the device, which means it will be up to the judge presiding over the case.
Williams’ lawyers have also pointed to the police findings that Williams wasn’t at fault for the crash, because she was stuck in an intersection when her Toyota Sequoia was hit by a Hyundai Accent at 1:13 p.m. June 9.
Jerome Barson, 78, was in the Hyundai driven by his wife Linda and he died 13 days after the wreck in Palm Beach Gardens. His estate quickly sued Williams, and continues to argue she was negligent because the Barsons had a green light.
Williams’ lawyers turned over her phone records last year, but they drew the line at any inspection of the phone, calling it “overly intrusive” and an invasion of privacy.
In the request filed May 30, the Barson estate lawyers say they need the actual phone because the AT&T records show two separate data downloads and uploads within an hour before the crash.
The question, they say, is whether a phone app was using data or whether Williams was “actively using her phone” in the seconds leading up to the crash.
The final police report from December says Williams entered the intersection of Northlake Boulevard and BallenIsles Drive on a green light, but the signal turned red while Williams had stopped to avoid hitting a Nissan Altima making a left turn in front of her.
Venus Williams 'lawfully entered intersection' during fatal crash, police say
Venus Williams had a green light when she was T-boned by another vehicle in which a man died.
In her defense of the Barson lawsuit, Williams’ legal team has blamed Linda Barson for “driving carelessly and recklessly” and not stopping on westbound Northlake before entering the intersection. More blame was put on the Altima for “causing (Williams) to slow and stop in order to avoid contact.”
But a new allegation from the Barson lawyers says before Williams ever entered the intersection she was directly behind a white car, and waited too long for the white car to clear the intersection.
The argument, which the lawyers say is based on surveillance video from the police investigation, is that Williams paused a total of nine seconds behind the white car, which was a “negligent delay” that ultimately led to the deadly crash.
The police investigative report says Williams was behind the white car while traveling north from Steeplechase Drive into the intersection, but the report does not mention that had any connection to the crash.
Still, the Barson lawyers suggest that maybe “distracted driving” from the phone is the reason for Williams being too slow to enter the intersection and then winding up in the way of the Barsons.
“These issues regarding (Williams’) phone usage in the seconds leading up to and including the subject crash would unquestionably be relevant towards not only liability issues … but would also be relevant … regarding punitive damages,” attorney Gary Iscoe wrote.
And the lawyer also wants access to Williams’ phone backup on a cloud account if it turns out all data on the phone was “wiped clean” after the crash.
Williams’ attorneys say they will not discuss pending litigation in the media. But previously, Williams’ attorney Kevin Yombor argued in a court document that releasing the iPhone would violate her privacy rights by exposing “confidential communications and personal matters entirely extraneous to the litigation.”
The defense has not yet responded to this latest request, and Circuit Judge James Nutt has not scheduled a hearing in the matter, according to the case file.
Both sides are to attend a daylong confidential mediation session on Sept. 7, in an effort to resolve the civil litigation before a trial is scheduled, records show.
Jerome Barson, a grandfather of seven, died from complications involving blunt force trauma, according to an autopsy report. He suffered lacerations to his spleen, along with pelvic and spinal fractures, and he developed multiple organ failure, the report said.
Williams, who was not injured, has said she was “devastated and heartbroken by this accident.”
<font color=brown>@ <b>Ace2Ace</b>:</font>
I guess they're looking beyond telephone calls. But yeah, it's fishing expedition. I can't believe the judge would allow them to have her phone without solid proof she was on it at the time.