Naya Rivera’s July 8 death in Lake Piru has sparked a wrongful death lawsuit against Ventura County, California, on behalf of her young son, who was on the water with her that day.
The suit was filed Tuesday in Ventura County Court on behalf of the 4-year-old by his father, Ryan Dorsey, Rivera’s estate and the late actress’ business manager. They’re suing not only the county, but also United Water Conservation District and Parks and Recreation Management for allegedly failing to warn visitors of the dangers of the lake and outfit the boat with the requisite safety equipment.
According to the complaint, the boat Rivera rented had not been equipped with flotation or lifesaving devices, or a ladder, rope, anchor or other equipment designed to keep swimmers from being separated from their boats. There also were no signs in the area warning of dangerous conditions like strong currents, low visibility and high winds.
“While Naya and Josey were swimming, the boat started to be carried away — likely by the current and wind, which gusted up to 21 miles per hour that afternoon,” writes attorney Amjad Khan in the complaint. “Josey, who was closer, managed to get back on the boat by his own volition and braced himself on the boat, which was rocking back and forth forcefully in the current and wind. 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 rope to help his mother get back on the boat. 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.”
The suit also alleges that defendants have attempted “to discredit Naya in the media and distract from their own negligence.” It also notes that the lake has a “deadly history” — more than two dozen people have drowned in it over the years — but no one warned Rivera of the potential dangers while she was renting the boat.
In addition to wrongful death, the suit on behalf of Rivera’s son also includes claims for survival and negligent infliction of emotional distress.