Venus Williams may still be liable for a fatal car crash that left one person dead, despite a new video that shows she was driving through an intersection on a green light–if the state of Florida recognizes an obscure traffic law.
The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department said in a statement today Williams “lawfully entered the intersection on a circular green traffic signal.”
Her car was hit by a vehicle being driven by Linda Barson, 67. Husband, Jerome J Barson, 78, was severely injured and died from his injuries two weeks later.
They sued Williams based on an early finding of fault by police, which blamed the tennis star for the accident.
While the new video has changed the department’s opinion of the case, it may not be enough to absolve Williams of at least partial fault for the accident.
The determining factor in court could be an obscure legal doctrine known as the “boulevard rule.”
The rule states that the driver of a vehicle entering a highway from a smaller road or entrance (called the “unfavored driver”) must stop and yield the right of way to all oncoming highway traffic (“the favored drivers”), no matter who has the green light.
It’s unknown whether the rule has been applied in Florida traffic cases, but that wouldn’t stop lawyers from making the argument in court to hold Williams at fault.
When it comes to traffic accidents Florida is also a no-fault state, which may weigh in either party’s favor depending on a final ruling on fault.
In the majority of traffic accidents, one driver cannot hold the other driver liable following a Florida car accident unless the serious injury threshold has been met, according to legal references.
This means the at-fault driver must have caused permanent injury, disfigurement, or significant and permanent scarring in order for a liability claim to be filed.
Jerome Barson was hospitalized and died two weeks later, June 22, meeting that threshold. But lawyers will be hard-pressed to argue Williams was grossly negligent.
The accident occurred June 9 at the intersection of Ballenisles Drive and Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens.
Williams was entering the intersection from the smaller road. The Barsons were traveling on Northlake.
In the new video, Williams’ SUV is the second car stopped at the intersection. On the green light, the first car proceeds through the intersection without incident.
Williams begins to enter the intersection, but brakes momentarily. Another car turning left from the opposite direction cuts in front of her. She then proceeds through the intersection.
Cars in two lanes on Northlake Boulevard can be seen stopped for the red light. But just as Willams’ SUV enters a third lane, the Barsons car speeds into the intersection and strikes her car.
Linda Barson claimed Williams had “suddenly darted” in front of her and said she didn’t had time to stop.
Williams broke down crying when she was asked about the crash on Monday, at a Wimbledon news conference. (See Video)
The Palm Beach Gardens Police statement says she proceeded through the intersection “in accordance” with local laws.
The traffic signal on Northlake was a “steady red traffic signal’ as the Barsons approached.
“The traffic signal then cycled to green, at which time Barson continued westbound and entered the intersection,” the statement added.
“The front end of Barson’s vehicle collided with the right front of William’s vehicle.” it concluded.
Police noted that the case is still under investigation.
Check out the videos below, let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest updates on this case.