Naya Rivera’s ex-husband, son reach settlement with Ventura County in wrongful death suit

Actress Naya Rivera on the "Glee" panel at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con in San Diego, California. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

A lawsuit stemming from the death of “Glee” star and former Santa Clarita Valley resident Naya Rivera, alleging negligence and wrongful death on the part of Ventura County, has been settled, according to the plaintiffs’ legal representation.  

The attorney for Rivera’s 6-year-old son Josey, and her ex-partner Ryan Dorsey, informed The Signal on Tuesday that a “global settlement” had been reached surrounding the actress’ drowning death at Lake Piru on July 8, 2020.  

“In Josey Hollis Dorsey and the Estate of Naya Rivera’s litigation relating to the drowning death of Naya Rivera on July 8, 2020, all parties have entered into a global settlement, which is subject to approval by the Ventura Superior Court on March 16,” read the statement sent to The Signal on Tuesday by the family’s attorney, Amjad M. Khan, a partner at Brown, Neri, Smith & Khan LLP. “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 added.  

The lawsuit filed by Rivera’s ex-partner on behalf of their son in late 2020 alleged that negligence on the part of the three defendants, including Ventura County, United Water Conservation District and Parks and Recreation Management, resulted in dangerous conditions that led to the drowning of the former Santa Clarita Valley resident and “Glee” star at Lake Piru earlier that year. 

Searchers come back to dock as they cruise past a pontoon boat with caution tape attached as they conclude the search for the day for actress Naya Rivera at Lake Piru on Thursday, July 09, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

The lawsuit alleged that the defendants had historically failed to properly warn Lake Piru visitors about the dangers of swimming in the lake through proper signage, as well as what type of safety equipment would be needed while out on the water.  

“Tragically (26 people) have drowned at Lake Piru since its recreational facilities opened (in December 1950),” the complaint filed in Ventura County Superior Court read. “This deadly history is a direct result of the dangerous conditions that occur at Lake Piru.” 

The lawsuit stated that Rivera’s son was not able to pull his mother into a pontoon boat they were both on that day due to harsh conditions on the lake, which can daily include strong currents, low visibility, high winds, changing water depths and underwater geography, as well as other dangerous elements. 

Rivera’s body was recovered by search-and-rescue personnel five days after her disappearance.  

The lawsuit also alleged that the county attempted to discredit Rivera’s death by releasing the autopsy and toxicology reports to the media in the days following her death, implying she was intoxicated at the time of her drowning, in an effort to “distract from their own negligence.” 

“Based on the autopsy findings, known circumstances surrounding the death, and absence of anatomic or toxicological explanation for the death, as currently understood, the cause of death is drowning, and the manner of death is (an) accident,” the complaint quoted from the autopsy.  

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