Yeardley Love and George Huguely were dating “on and off” while both attended the University of Virginia in 2010. Several weeks before Love’s graduation, the two were believed to have been arguing at her apartment when Huguely allegedly killed Love. Huguely was convicted in a criminal case and sentenced to 23 years in prison for murder in the second degree.
The Love family is currently pursuing a civil claim of wrongful death where a jury is possibly going to award punitive damages. The plaintiffs asked the court to order that Huguely disclose the details of trust funds that he will be receiving in the future. They seek to prove to the jury that Huguely would not be bankrupt if punitive damages are awarded.
Debate on Relevance
Under Virginia law, when juries are tasked with deciding on an amount to award for punitive damages, they are to consider whether or not doing so would bankrupt the defendant. Virginia does place a cap (maximum) of $350,000 for punitive damage awards. The defense argues that the funds in trust are not current assets. They explained that although he is the named beneficiary, he will not be eligible to access or control the funds for several more years. Plaintiff counsel believes that these future earnings are applicable and says they are merely seeking discovery, not that the information be made available on the public record.
Prior Case Sets Precedent
Judge Richard Moore referenced a 2001 case in the Charlottesville Circuit Court that involved the same issue regarding the relevance of future trust funds. In that matter, the defendant was found to be liable for injuries to the plaintiff following a physical assault. That judge did determine that future trust funds were relevant, and a jury did later award punitive damages. Here, Judge Moore agreed with the earlier decision and ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
Discovery of Trust Funds
Judge Moore did order that the trust fund information be provided to the plaintiff and said that the information would otherwise be sealed from the public. Moore also pointed out some improper behavior that occurred between Huguely and his lawyer. Huguely had apparently instructed his counsel to provide the plaintiff no trust fund information. Moore explained that counsel had “an obligation to respond with the information as an officer of the court” and that his client is not to determine that.
Defendant Ready to Look Forward
On the night of the alleged murder, Huguely was said to have blacked out due to extreme intoxication. Defense counsel says that Huguely has been making improvements and has not had any alcohol since the night of the incident. While in prison at the Augusta Correctional Center, he is completing his college degree and is active in coordinating some of the intramural sporting leagues within the facility. His mother says that the family is looking toward the future and that it is time for “healing and hopefully for forgiveness.”
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