Starsia sued: UVA lax coaches, state targeted by Love family
The family that sued George Huguely V in the death of their 22-year-old daughter has now filed a $29.4 million suit against the lacrosse coaches who reportedly missed key signals that they had a violent man on their team.
The suit, filed May 1 in Louisa County Circuit Court, names University of Virginia's head lacrosse coach, Dom Starsia, along with assistant coach Marc Van Arsdale, athletic director Craig Littlepage, and the Commonwealth of Virginia and comes in the wake of the 2010 beating death of Yeardley Love. Why the coaches were sued in a rural and earthquake-scarred county east of Charlottesville could not be immediately learned, and telephone messages left with the UVA Athletic Department and with the Love family attorney were not immediately returned.
Hook legal analyst David Heilberg suggests one possibility for the venue. While rural populations are often conservative in their social beliefs, Heilberg says that Louisa is liberal in another regard.
"A Louisa jury is very generous," says Heilberg, who says he's seen larger than expected awards given in that county, particularly for local plaintiffs.
And even if Sharon Love isn't a native Louisan, the high profile nature of the case might work in her favor.
"She might be sympathetic enough that they'd treat her as one of their own," says Heilberg, speculating that a potential Louisa jury "might overlook some of the flaws of the plaintiff's case."
Love's most recent suit alleges that Huguely's proclivity for violence, his substance abuse, and his threats against her daughter were well known to his coaches prior to her death at his hands, and that they took no action to discipline him, push him toward treatment, or to warn Love. The suit also contains new information.
The plaintiff notes that the UVA coaches and/or athletic director Craig Littlepage enforced a team suspension on a less-valuable player, a bench-warmer who had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol while doing nothing about Huguely's "well known" abuse of people and alcohol.
While it's been previously asserted that Huguely had a history of violent behavior including an alleged choking incident against Love, a resisting-arrest attack on a Lexington police officer, and even the reported battery on a sleeping teammate (a tale whose details eerily presage the homicide), the suit offers fresh particulars about the severity of the teammate incident.
The suit asserts that the injuries Huguely inflicted on the fellow player– who supposedly incited Huguely's ire by showing interest in Love– were seen by the team trainer. The suit claims the trainer considered them serious enough to recommend medical treatment and that the player turned out to have suffered a concussion from Huguely's nocturnal blows.
Also revealed are two more alleged physical assaults by Huguely. The suit asserts that one of those alleged victims, the daughter of Huguely's high school lacrosse coach, was assaulted by Huguely, who accused her of telling her father about his alcohol abuse and rage. The suit claims that Huguely also perpetrated an assault against a UVA men's tennis player whom Huguely saw walking with Love near the UVA Grounds.
"It was well known to the players and coaches on the UVA men's and women's lacrosse teams that Huguely's alcohol abuse and erratic, aggressive behavior was increasingly getting out of control," reads the suit, which was helpfully posted by a Charlottesville television station. "Especially his obsession with Love and his aggression and threats to Love."
In late February, a Charlottesville jury found Huguely guilty of second-degree murder after testimony indicated that the UVA senior kicked in the door of his sleeping girlfriend, battered her, and left her to die. The jury recommended a sentence of 26 years.
In late April, Love's mother filed an approximately $30 million civil suit against Huguely. The subsequent suit's filing comes two days before the two-year anniversary of Love's death and comes from a slightly different legal team including Richmond-based Elliott Buckner and Reston-based Robert T. Hall. A person answering the phone at Buckner's office said there would be no comment.
Finally, the suit also provides a new view of May 1, 2010, the last full day before the killing. In contrast to one of the curious bits of defense testimony during trial, a moment-by-moment video shot at Boylan Heights restaurant and narrated to the jury by an aunt who would point out allegedly affectionate motions by "Georgie" toward Love, the suit offers a new view. It claims that, while accompanied by his father at a restaurant, Huguely "rudely directed obscenities" toward Love.
UVA spokesperson Carol Wood referred inquiries to the Attorney General's office. AG spokesperson Brian Gottstein says his office is aware of the suit, but notes that none of the defendants have been served.
"If it is served, we will vigorously defend the case," says Gottstein in an emailed statement. "While we certainly recognize the terrible loss suffered by the Love family, that loss was not caused by the Commonwealth or anyone employed at the University of Virginia."
Story updated from 11:30-12:50am with quotations from David Heilberg and from the lawsuit itself.–ed.Attached Documents:This story is a part of the Huguely trial coverage special.