Naya Rivera’s Family Settles Wrongful Death Suit Nearly 2 Years After She Drowned
“Glee” star Naya Rivera, 33, tragically drowned nearly two years ago, and now her family has settled its wrongful death lawsuit in the matter.
The actress died in July 2020 while boating with her then 4-year-old son Josey on Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. Josey was found alone on the rented pontoon boat, and Naya's body was discovered a few days later.
The suit was filed by Naya’s ex-husband Ryan Dorsey and her estate on behalf of Josey, now 6. They sued Ventura County, United Water Conservation District, and the county’s Parks and Recreation Management for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Now, The Blast reports the case has been settled and the family is “very pleased.”
The family’s attorney, Amjad M. Khan of Brown Neri Smith & Khan, told the site in a statement, “Through this settlement, Josey will receive just compensation for having to endure the drowning of his beloved mother at Lake Piru. Though the tragic loss of Josey’s mother can never truly be overcome, we are very pleased that the monetary settlement will significantly assist Josey with his life beyond this tragedy.”
He noted the Ventura Superior Court will sign off on the agreement March 16.
According to Us Weekly, the wrongful death suit claimed Naya’s drowning was preventable and that Rivera’s rented boat did not meet U.S. Coast Guard safety standards.
The papers stated, “[The boat] was not equipped with a safely accessible ladder, adequate rope, an anchor, a radio or any security mechanisms to prevent swimmers from being separated from their boats. Disturbingly, later inspection revealed that the boat was not even equipped with any flotation or lifesaving devices, in direct violation of California law, which requires that all pontoons longer than 16 feet be equipped with flotation devices.” Ventura County has stated in the past that Naya was offered a life vest but declined to wear it.
The docs also claimed that there is no signage alerting people to the dangers of the lake, insisting not “a single sign anywhere — not at the entrance, at the dock, at the popular swimming area of Diablo Cove, not anywhere — warning of the lake’s strong currents, low visibility, high winds, changing water depths, underwater caves, ledges and drop offs, or the trees, brush and other debris that congest its waters due to the vastly changing water levels and winds.”
Bringing attention to the dangers of the lake, the suit claims “more than two dozen people have drowned” in Lake Piru since 1959.
The papers also share details of what allegedly unfolded the day of Naya’s death. According to Us Weekly, the docs say, Josey “managed to get back on the boat by his own volition” and that winds of 21 mph caused the boat to float away.
“Josey knew Naya was still in the water and heard her cry, ‘Help! Help!’ in her struggle to get back to the boat and avoid drowning. Josey searched in vain for a rope to help his mother get back on the boat,” the papers say. “Josey then looked back at the water for his mother and saw that Naya had disappeared. Josey yelled for help and cried alone in the boat until he was found more than an hour later by a PMC boat leasing agent.”
Dorsey, who is now raising Josey, paid tribute to Naya in January on what would have been her 35th birthday.
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He wrote on Instagram, “Made the visit today to see you, to spend some time. Up the hill I went, memories flashing through my mind as I drive… The end is inevitable for all of our lives, passing other people doing the same, I see some wiping tears out of their eyes…”
Dorsey continued, “Approaching where you rest, bouquet of daisies and baby breath. Trying to hold it together, feeling all I feel, eyes getting wet still can’t believe it’s real… Step by step walking by each marker it’s all so surreal, Getting closer gritting my teeth trying to keep it together… I look up in the sky and notice the weather… I suppose trying to distract my mind but reality comes back quick nobody knows why. Why you had to leave us behind…”
He ended the tribute with: “I hope it gets easier as time goes by, but forever is forever, and I’ll never know why. You would’ve been XXXV.”
Ryan wrote, “Able to finally look at a couple videos today, I guess you can say I’m doing better…but better is just a better word for forever sad, this sh-- is unbelievable forever.”