The family of Jerome Barson has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against tennis star Venus Williams

By Harriet Sokmensuer and Adam Carlson
July 25, 2017 04:36 PM
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In a response to the wrongful death lawsuit filed against her following a fatal vehicle crash in June, tennis star Venus Williams claiming the victim was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

Williams also claimed that Linda and Jerome Barson — the latter of whom died following a June 9 crash in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida — failed to adequately maintain and repair their vehicle.

“Defendant states that the injuries and/or damages to the Plaintiff were solely and/or proximately caused by the unreasonable failure of the Plaintiff to use an available and operational seat belt and the time of the accident,” Williams’ response, filed July 21, states.

On June 30, attorneys for the Barson family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams, 37.

Responding to Williams’ claim that Jerome Barson, 78, was not wearing a seatbelt, Barson family attorney Michael Steinger tells PEOPLE that data from the car pulled by investigators shows that both Linda and Jerome Barson were wearing seatbelts.

Responding to the claim that the vehicle hadn’t been adequately maintained and repaired, Steinger says, “Our client’s vehicle is actually a brand new 2016 Hyundai, which the inspection papers can prove was in perfect working order.”

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Venus Williams
| Credit: Zhong Zhi/Getty

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The crash occurred on June 9, when Williams’ SUV and the vehicle in which Jerome Barson was a passenger collided. Barson was traveling home from running errands with Linda Barson, who was driving. After the crash he was taken to a local hospital and died two weeks later.

According to Palm Beach Gardens police, Williams, traveling north, entered the intersection on a green light. But because of heavy traffic, she became held up in the intersection when another car “entered the intersection traveling south, and made a left turn in front of William’s vehicle, causing her to stop advancing through the intersection to avoid a collision,” a police press release states.

During that time, Barson’s light turned green.

Moments later, Linda Barson drove through the same intersection on a green light and T-boned Williams’ vehicle, the press release states. Williams was driving about 5 mph when the crash occurred.

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The Barson’s Hyundai
| Credit: Barson Family

Police initially said Williams was at fault for the crash. But several weeks later, police said Williams had “lawfully entered the intersection,” and told PEOPLE there was “no final determination” of who was at fault.

“After the initial investigation was conducted, new evidence into the incident was located,” the police press release states. “Based on the evidence obtained in the ongoing investigation, it has been determined the vehicle driven by Venus Williams lawfully entered the intersection on a circular green traffic signal.”

From the beginning, Williams maintained that she had entered the intersection on June 9 on a green light.