LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Attorneys for a former chef for a Hollywood producer say in new court papers that a wrongful death claim against their client stemming from the drowning death of the filmmaker's personal assistant during a 2015 trip to Bora Bora should be dismissed because the woman's death was an accident attributable to her own actions.
Ronald and Ann Musgrove brought their lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2017, alleging that their 28-year-old daughter, Carmel Musgrove, had been overworked and furnished with cocaine during the trip by chef Martin Herold, who Herold's attorneys say in their court papers filed Thursday was a friend and colleague of Musgrove.
Two separate autopsies confirmed that Musgrove died from an accidental drowning with "contributory factors of significant alcohol and cocaine intoxication. There were no signs of foul play or sexual assault," according to Herold's lawyers' court papers.
"Despite the clear findings of accidental drowning due to (Musgrove's) own impaired state, decedent's parents ... seek to blame someone else for their daughter's unfortunate death in this lawsuit," Herold's lawyers state in their court papers.
Last August, a three-justice panel of the Second District Court of Appeal found that Judge Dennis J. Landin ruled correctly in February 2021 by granting producer Joel Silver's motion to dismiss the part of the case filed against him. Musgrove's parents maintained Silver should be held secondarily liable for the actions of his chef in allegedly plying their daughter with alcohol and drugs before she drowned.
Silver's lawyer, Matthew E. Voss, argued that Musgrove's death was not foreseeable on the part of his client and did not occur during the course and scope of the producer's employment of his chef.
Silver was in Bora Bora for the honeymoon party of actors Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, who have since divorced, when the nude body of his assistant was found floating in a lagoon near the Four Seasons hotel at 1 a.m. on Aug. 20, 2015.
Autopsies in French Polynesia and in San Diego County, where Musgrove's parents live, concluded that the likely cause of death was drowning with drugs and alcohol as contributing factors, along with fatigue and heat stroke.
Herold was sued along with Silver, Silver Pictures and Silver-Katz Holdings. Musgrove's parents settled the part of the case against Silver Pictures and Silver-Katz Holdings in January 2020 and Silver is no longer with Silver Pictures, the production company he founded in 1980 that co-produced the "Lethal Weapon," "Matrix" and "Sherlock Holmes" film franchises.
According to Herold's lawyers' court papers, Musgrove was advised that it was unsafe to go swimming in the lagoon surrounding the bungalows because of rough seas. Subsequently, Musgrove and Herold shared a bottle of wine between the hours of 10 and 11 p.m. and Musgrove then returned to her bungalow, Herold's lawyers state in their court papers.
Musgrove placed a "Do not disturb" sign on her door and had several more alcoholic drinks and cocaine before going swimming in the lagoon, disregarding the prior warning concerning the rough seas, according to Herold's attorneys' court papers.
One of the autopsies showed Musgrove's blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit in California, according to Herold's lawyers' court papers.
"Certainly, once (Musgrove) left, Herold could not control (Musgrove's) conduct of which he was unaware, specifically, decedent's decisions to consume multiple alcohol beverages, ingest drugs and then go swimming in dangerous waters by herself," according to Herold's attorneys' court papers.
Herold has submitted an 11-paragraph sworn declaration regarding the incident that is written in French. A hearing on his motion to dismiss the part of the case against him is scheduled April 26 before Judge Upinder S. Kalra.