La Mesa drowning Hollywood
Carmel Musgrove. Photo credit: Screen shot, @ABC10News, via YouTube

Attorneys for a former chef for a Hollywood producer say in new court papers that a wrongful death claim stemming from the drowning death of the filmmaker’s personal assistant should be dismissed.

The woman’s death, during a 2015 trip to Bora Bora, was an accident, they contend, in answer to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court more than five years ago.

Ronald and Ann Musgrove, who reside in San Diego County, allege that their late daughter, Carmel Musgrove, 28, had been overworked and furnished with cocaine during the trip by the chef, Martin Herold.

Herold’s attorneys, in their court papers filed Thursday, describe him as a friend and colleague of Musgrove.

Two separate autopsies – one in San Diego County – confirmed that Musgrove died from an accidental drowning, the lawyers argued in the papers, with “contributory factors of significant alcohol and cocaine intoxication. There were no signs of foul play or sexual assault.”

“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.

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 nor did it occur during the course and scope of the producer’s employment of the 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, both locally and in French Polynesia, concluded that the likely cause of death was drowning with drugs and alcohol as contributing factors, along with fatigue and heat stroke.

The Musgroves sued Herold, along with Silver, Silver Pictures and Silver-Katz Holdings. They 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 co-produced the “Lethal Weapon,” “Matrix” and “Sherlock Holmes” film franchises.

ABC 10 News reported that the Musgrove family is from La Mesa.

According to the filing by Herold’s lawyers, 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.

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, Herold’s lawyers state.

One of the autopsies showed Musgrove’s blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit in California, they noted in the 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,” the attorneys wrote.

Herold has submitted an 11-paragraph sworn declaration, written in French, regarding the incident. A hearing on his motion to dismiss the part of the case against him is scheduled April 26 before Judge Upinder S. Kalra.

City News Service