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Naya Rivera’s family reaches settlement in wrongful death lawsuit

Her 6-year-old son “will receive just compensation for having to endure the drowning of his beloved mother at Lake Piru,” an attorney for the child and Rivera’s estate said.
Image:  Naya Rivera at the Giffoni Film Festival on July 24, 2013 in Giffoni Valle Piana, Italy.
Naya Rivera at the Giffoni Film Festival in Giffoni Valle Piana, Italy, in July 2013.Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Actor Naya Rivera's family is settling a wrongful death lawsuit over her accidental drowning in a lake in Southern California.

Rivera, 33, who was best known for her role as Santana Lopez in the hit TV show “Glee,” drowned while she was boating with her then-4-year-old son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, on Lake Piru in July 2020. In November of that year, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Ventura County, where the lake is located.

Her former husband, Ryan Dorsey, sued on behalf of Josey, Rivera’s estate and her business manager. The suit accuses Ventura County, its parks and recreation management agency and the United Water Conservation District of neglecting to sufficiently warn visitors of the lake’s dangers and provide appropriate safety equipment, as well as inflicting emotional distress on the child, who witnessed his mother’s death.

Amjad M. Khan, an attorney for Josey and Rivera’s estate, confirmed Monday that all parties “have entered into a global settlement,” pending court approval March 16.

“Through this settlement, Josey will receive just compensation for having to endure the drowning of his beloved mother at Lake Piru,” Khan said in a statement. “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.”

The United Water Conservation District declined to comment. Ventura County did not respond to a request for comment.

Josey was found asleep alone on the boat, which was found in the lake after it was not returned to the rental company. Rivera was reported missing, and authorities recovered her body from the lake several days later.

An autopsy conducted by the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death to have been an accidental drowning.

Rivera’s younger sister, Nickayla, opened up this year about getting out of a “dark place” after the tragedy.

“When that happened, I was in complete shock. My whole family was in complete shock,” she said in a YouTube video from Jan. 10, adding that it all felt as though “someone pulled the rug from under us and we didn’t see it coming.” 

“The dark place that I was in before only progressed when that happened,” she said. “At that time, I had no thoughts of my future. I had no thoughts of myself, really. I was only just experiencing pain.”

Nickayla Rivera said she realized her pain would not go away until she “decided to find the good in this world.”

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