RICHMOND, Va. -- A former University of Virginia lacrosse player is liable for fatally beating his girlfriend in 2010 and must pay $15 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, a jury found Monday.
George Huguely is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence in the killing of Yeardley Love after being convicted of second-degree murder during a 2012 criminal trial. Huguely and Love both played lacrosse at UVA and had a two-year, on-again, off-again relationship before Yeardley was found beaten to death in her off-campus apartment on May 3, 2010.
The lawsuit sought to hold Huguely civilly liable in Love's death and asked the jury to award $29.5 million in compensatory damages, plus $1 million in punitive damages to her mother, Sharon Love, the administrator of her estate.
On Monday, the jury ruled that $7.5 million in compensatory damages should be given to both Sharon Love and Yeardley Love's sister, Lexi Love Hodges. Punitive damages were not awarded.
During the trial in Charlottesville Circuit Court, Huguely's lawyer, Matthew Green, acknowledged that Huguely's actions caused Yeardley's death and said her family was entitled to compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by the jury.
But Green said Huguely had been drinking heavily for more than 24 hours before he confronted Love in her apartment, did not intend to kill her and was unaware that she was dead until police told him while questioning him the next morning. Green argued that Huguely's actions did not rise to the level of “willful and wanton” conduct needed for a jury to award punitive damages under Virginia law.
Love, of Cockeysville, Maryland, and Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, were both 22-year-old UVA seniors who were weeks away from graduation.
Love's attorneys told jurors that Huguely and Love had a rocky relationship that was damaged by Huguely's excessive drinking. They said Huguely kicked a hole in Love’s bedroom door, then beat her and left her alone in her apartment without seeking medical attention. A medical examiner concluded she died of blunt force trauma to her head.
Huguely testified that he doesn't remember breaking into her room and leaving her fatally injured. He said he had been drinking heavily and compared his memory of the night Love was killed to a slideshow in which 98% of the slides had been removed.
Toward the end of his testimony, Huguely turned to Love’s mother and sister and apologized for killing her.
“I miss her and think about her every day. I would do anything to take back that night,” he said. “I take responsibility for what happened to her and I should have never gone over to her apartment that night.”
Sharon Love initially filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2012, but it was voluntarily dismissed years later after court rulings determined that Huguely was not entitled to coverage under a $6 million homeowners insurance policy held by his family.
A new lawsuit filed in 2018 dropped negligence claims but added a claim alleging that an assault and battery by Huguely was the proximate cause of Love’s death.