A former University of Virginia lacrosse player must pay $15 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit after beating his girlfriend to death in 2010, a jury decided Monday.
George Huguely V was convicted of second-degree murder in 2012 in the killing of his girlfriend, Yeardley Love, and is currently serving a 23-year sentence. Huguely and Love were both lacrosse players at UVA, just a few weeks away from graduation. They had an on-again, off-again relationship prior to her death 12 years ago on May 3, 2010.
The jury awarded $7.5 million in compensatory damages to Love's mother and sister, Sharon Love and Lexi Love Hodges, in a Charlottesville Circuit Court. The jury read their decision after two hours of deliberation.
The lawsuit originally sought to hold Huguely civilly liable in Love's death. The jury was also asked to award $29.5 million in compensatory damages along with $1 million in punitive damages.
The jury was asked whether Huguely acted with "willful and wanton" misconduct and whether his actions were in "conscious disregard" of Love's rights in order to come to their unanimous decision, according to Paul Bekman, the Love family attorney. The jury ultimately answered "yes" but decided to not award punitive damages despite their ability to do so.
Because Huguely was found acting in "willful and wanton" misconduct, the $15 million in compensatory damages cannot be dismissed by a bankruptcy court if he argues that he cannot pay due to lack of assets.
Love's mother had previously filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2012. It was later voluntarily dismissed due to the determination that Huguely was not covered under his family's $6 million homeowners insurance policy.
A 2018 lawsuit also dropped negligence claims. An additional claim was added, however, arguing that Love's death was brought about by an assault and battery by Huguely.
Huguely's lawyer, Matthew Green, recognized during trial that Huguely's actions caused Love's death and, as a result, Love's family was entitled to compensatory damages. However, Green argued that Huguely did not have the intent to kill her.
Huguely allegedly had a drinking problem, contributing to the unstableness of the relationship. Green argued Huguely had been drinking heavily before going to Love's off-campus apartment and beating her. It was later determined that Love had died from blunt force trauma to the head.
It was due to his intoxication that Huguely's lawyers claimed he did not remember confronting Love and leaving her in her apartment without medical attention.
Green argued that Huguely's actions the night of Love's death did not constitute "willful and wanton" conduct necessary for the jury to award punitive damages under Virginia law.
"We think the result of the jury in granting the defense request not to award punitive damages shows that George got a fair trial 10 years ago and justice was done at that time and no additional punishment was warranted," Green said following the verdict reading.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.