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Al Joyner Sued by Flo-Jo's Mother

October 01, 1999|From Times Staff Writers

SANTA ANA — The mother of late Olympic sprint champion Florence Griffith Joyner filed a wrongful death lawsuit this week against her son-in-law, Al Joyner, in what she said is part of an escalating family dispute over control of the famed runner's legacy.

The four-page complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court includes few specific allegations other than the charge that Joyner failed to "exercise reasonable care to avoid foreseeable risk of harm" to his wife and that "harmful or offensive touching" caused her death.

An Orange County coroner's report completed shortly after Griffith Joyner's death in September 1998 at age 38 concluded that she suffered an epileptic seizure in her sleep and suffocated. The autopsy found no indications of foul play or suspicious circumstances.

"We're standing by our autopsy," said Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo.

Al Joyner could not be reached for comment. The plaintiff, 69-year-old Florence Griffith, declined to speak directly about the lawsuit but said it stems in part from a dispute with Joyner over his decision to start a foundation in his wife's honor.

Griffith said the foundation is undermining the efforts of a separate charity group, the Florence Griffith Joyner Youth Foundation, which she supports.

Griffith said Joyner also tried recently to evict her from the Rancho Santa Margarita home in which she lives. Joyner owns the home, she said, but her daughter had allowed her to live there.

Griffith said relations between she and her son-in-law worsened soon after her daughter's death.

In his wife's memory, Al Joyner established the Flo-Jo Memorial Community Empowerment Foundation and launched other ventures. He has hoped to open a Florence Griffith Joyner museum in Southern California, which would display her writing, art and clothing designs.

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