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Just one day after the University of Georgia athletic department and football program came out all high and mighty against the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper’s credibility, a lawsuit questions the credibility of the Georgia athletic department and football program.
Former football recruiting analyst Victoria Bowles filed a civil lawsuit late Wednesday. The suit names Georgia athletic department officials, former star football player Jalen Carter and a former football staffer’s estate for negligence in a Jan. 15 car crash in Athens that killed two and seriously injured Bowles.
Georgia Negligent In Fatal Car Crash Of Jan. 15
The lawsuit filed in Gwinnett County state court says Georgia athletic department officials and football coach Kirby Smart “made false public statements” concerning the crash.
On Tuesday, University of Georgia chief legal counsel Michael Raeber attacked a recent story by Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigative reporter Alan Judd, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. The story detailed Georgia’s handling of a series of recent sexual assault allegations by women against many Georgia football players. Most of Raeber’s diatribe involved tone and approach rather than actual errors.
“Mr. Judd’s refusal to provide the factual basis for his assertions calls his credibility into serious question,” wrote Raeber, a Georgia law school graduate who is an adjunct law professor at the school.
Victoria Bowles, 26, suffered serious injuries that have not gone away in that crash after midnight following Georgia’s national championship celebration in Athens on Jan. 14. The crash killed Chandler LeCroy, 24, who was driving a vehicle rented by Georgia for recruiting purposes. She was speeding excessively after a night of partying – not recruiting, according to reports. Georgia football player Devin Willock, 20, was in the vehicle and died at the scene. Bowles was in the back seat.
Georgia Staffer Victoria Bowles Suffered Spinal Cord Injury
Bowles remained hospitalized for several weeks after the crash. A spinal cord injury could cause permanent paralysis, according to the lawsuit. She suffered neurological damage from a head injury. She also suffered broken vertebrae, ribs and clavicle, lacerations to her kidney and liver and a punctured and collapsed lung with abdominal bleeding.
Bowles is “disappointed that the association (Georgia’s athletic department) and its insurers have forced her to resort to litigation to address her life-altering injuries,” Bowles attorney Rob Buck said in a statement.
Bowles is suing the estate of LeCroy, whom Athens Police said was racing Carter at more than 100 mph just before the crash. Toxicology reports said LeCroy’s blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was 0.197 – twice the legal limit. LeCroy died shortly after the crash.
Georgia’s Jalen Carter Was Racing Just Before Wreck
Carter was not involved in the crash impact, but authorities charged him with reckless driving and street racing before the crash. He pleaded no contest March 16 and received a $1,000 fine and 12 months of probation. The court also ordered him to perform 80 hours of community service and take a driving course. Georgia campus police previously cited him for traffic violations twice last fall. Athens Police also ticketed him for driving 89 mph in a 45 mph zone last fall.
Philadelphia picked Carter with the ninth pick of the first round of the NFL Draft on April 27. A week later, the defensive tackle agreed to a four-year, guaranteed $21.8 million contract. Two weeks later, Willock’s father, Dave Willock Sr., filed a $40 million lawsuit against the University of Georgia, Georgia’s athletic department, Carter and other defendants.
Bowles’ lawsuit says the crash would not have happened had the athletic department not overlooked LeCroy’s “deplorable driving history and habitual operation of motor vehicles at high and unsafe speeds.” Instead, the football program allowed her to continue driving staff-rented vehicles. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that LeCroy received her fourth driving citations in six years last October for driving 77 mph in a 55-mph zone.
Georgia’s Policy On Recruiting Vehicles Contradictory
The lawyers for Bowles question the credibility of a statement released by Georgia’s athletic department shortly after the fatal crash. That statement said, “Staff members had permission to drive the rented vehicles during “recruiting activities only.”
Smart said last March, “It should have been understood that you cannot take a vehicle when you’re not doing your duties, and they were not participating in their duties at that time.”
But the lawsuit contains a text message from associate director of recruiting Logen Reed to Bowles in 2019 that contradicted Smart’s later statement.
“You can take your car home if you need to,” the text said.
Raeber disputed this characterization of the lawsuit to OutKick on Thursday.
Attorney Representing Georgia Responds To OutKick
“The complaint does not allege that Ms. LeCroy and Ms. Bowles were on duty or acting within the scope of their employment in the hours leading up to the accident,” he said. “It claims that on some previous occasions, recruiting staff were permitted to take rental vehicles home and return them the next morning. This does not mean, however, that they were allowed to use the car for any purpose.”
Raeber explained further.
“Recruiting vehicles were to be used during recruiting activities only,” he said. “Personal use of the vehicles was prohibited, and recruiting staff therefore were not authorized to use the rental vehicle for their purely personal activities on the night of the accident or any other time. Under no circumstances were recruiting staff authorized to use rental cars to drive at excessive speeds while intoxicated.”
Bowles is seeking punitive damages and $170,000 in medical bills. The suit also calls for unspecified amounts for future expenses as well as for wages lost and mental and physical pain and suffering.
Georgia Reviewing Victoria Bowles’ Lawsuit
“We are continuing to review the complaint, as plaintiff’s counsel elected to share it with the media before sharing it with us,” Raeber told OutKick. “Based on our preliminary review, we dispute its claims and will vigorously defend the Athletic Association’s (athletic department’s) interest in court.”
Bowles’ attorney said, “Victoria is deeply saddened by the loss of Devin and Chandler. She greatly appreciates the continued prayers, love and support she is receiving during her difficult recovery.”
Raeber also told OutKick, “While we have patiently supported Ms. Bowles during her long and difficult recovery, we will strongly defend our position in this lawsuit.”