Updated at 1:25 p.m. May 21, 2012
Six days before killing himself, Junior Seau was being represented in a downtown San Diego courtroom by an attorney fending off a personal-injury lawsuit.
According to court documents, Murray Lea sought $256,000 from Seau as compensatory damages in connection with Seau’s . Lea says he was close enough to the car he could have grabbed the door handle, but injured himself jumping away.
He listed a San Marcos address in the lawsuit, but now says he is homeless—living out of a van on Coast Highway and fearing for his life as a result of publicity about the case.
“I’m suing a dead legend for a quarter-million dollars,” Lea noted Thursday afternoon from his car in Carlsbad. But he insists he’s not targeting Seau, since “Farmers Insurance has taken over the case.”
“I’m not suing his estate,” he said. “It’s car insurance. … It’s all about car insurance.”
Acting as his own attorney, Lea wrote in a court filing that he was “standing on the side of the road, cliff area, and Mr. Seau was asleep at the wheel driving 70 mph at [me. I] jumped out of the way of the SUV,” leading to a torn groin muscle and a hip flexor injury.
Scott Savary, a San Diego lawyer, filed a complaint on behalf of Lea, 50, on June 27, 2011. Savary is no longer Lea’s attorney.
Messages left for Savary were not immediately returned Thursday. Patch also is seeking comment from Darin Boles, listed as representing Seau in this previously unreported case.
A review of Superior Court records shows that Lea has been involved in at least 15 lawsuits—both as a plaintiff and a defendant. But Lea says 14 suits are outstanding and most involved his landlord or efforts by jealous neighbors trying to force him out of business, especially after he began appearing on radio.
He was evicted from his Oceanside surf shop in September 2008, Lea said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
“I have over 60 pages of evadence [sic] for my side,” he wrote on his site, saying this includes medical records, photos and news stories.
Lea (pronounced LEE) posted a headline: FUTURE PRESS CONFERENCE TO BE ANNOUNCED ABOUT HOW JUNIOR ALMOST KILLED ME. He linked to a Channel 10 video in which he describes the incident.
In a Feb. 23 posting on wakeworld.com, Lea wrote about dodging Seau’s Cadillac Escalade.
“So if you know me, I just did not stand around and take PICTURES like everyone else,” he wrote. I [grabbed] my [fire extinguisher] and my 2 first aid kits and [hobbled] as fast to save who just miss hitting me life.”
In a court filing dated Jan. 20, 2012, attorney Boles wrote Judge Lisa Foster that Seau denied all allegations, citing 11 “affirmative defenses.”
But three days before an April 24 case management conference, Lea asked for a jury trial but also checked a box requesting mediation. He says a mediator contacted him Wednesday about a July 10 session.
Lea says he has hundreds of friends in the surfing community, and Boogie Board inventor Tom Morey “called me the most talented guy he ever met in his life.”
“I started [the sport of] wakeboarding. I started snowboarding. And I sponsored champions and two world champions,” Lea said in response to critical early comments posted on this story. “I’m not a douchebag. I’m a world-class legend.”
The comments made him “sound like a monster,” he said. “I’m far from that, bro.”
He says he’s made surfboards for hundreds of people for 37 years—and hopes to open yet another shop.
He called himself “the guru surfboard shaper. Everyone turns to me with their problems. I usually fix everybody’s problems. But you know what? I can’t even fix my own problems now. It’s crazy.”
But Jeff Marsh at the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach wasn’t familiar with Murray Lea, and Ric Riavic, acting curator of the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, said: “I’ve been in Oceanside 30 years, and I don’t really know him. ... There’s a lot of shapers in Oceanside.”
Lea also sought to counter perceptions that his lawsuit was frivolous.
“This isn’t a joke trial,” he said in a second phone conversation Thursday. “It’s the real deal, man. I got hurt really bad. And if it was a joke trial, the judge would have thrown it out two weeks ago.”
He said he would defend himself at trial.
“When I get in the courtroom, I’m going to tell my story to a jury—and I’m going to make them all cry.”
His story includes the devastating injuries he suffered at age 24, when he says he was hit by a drunken driver. He had barely recovered from those injuries and later ones when he was nearly hit by Seau’s SUV, he says.
“And I’m a hero—I tried to save this guy’s life … who almost killed me. I didn’t know it was Junior.”
He’s now focusing on his case.
“Set a trial date A.S.A.P. due to great heart-ship,” Lea hand-wrote on a court filing, further noting: “I’ve called Mr. Boles at least 6 times and e-mailed Mr. Boles at least 3 times with no answer.”
A trial readiness conference is set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 10, 2012, before Judge Gonzalo Curiel. On April 26, a jury trial was set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 31 before Curiel.
were held Friday in Oceanside, followed by a at Qualcomm Stadium.
Lea can’t believe how his life has changed since that October morning when he went outside with the trash.
“I didn’t sign up for this that Monday morning,” he said. “I was just checking the waves out.”
Freelancer Chris Stone contributed to this report.