Hollywood Producer Is Not Liable For Drowning Death Of Executive Assistant
As part of an entourage of family and friends, a Hollywood producer (Joel Silver) brought his executive assistant (who was employed through Silver’s company) as well as a French chef Silver personally employed to a luxurious resort in Bora Bora, French Polynesia to attend the August 2015 wedding of actress Jennifer Aniston. Tragically, the executive assistant (Carmel Musgrove) drowned when she went for a midnight swim in the lagoon outside her overwater bungalow. The drowning was accidental and related to Musgrove’s ingestion of alcohol and cocaine in the hours prior to the swim. Musgrove’s parents sued Silver on the theory that he was (1) directly liable because he paid all resort-related expenses of the trip, including for the alcohol Musgrove had ingested; and (2) vicariously liable because he employed the chef who had met up with Musgrove for a “late-night rendezvous” during which she drank half a bottle of wine and snorted a “significant amount of cocaine” before drowning.
The trial court granted Silver’s motion for summary judgment, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal, holding that Silver was not liable under either theory. The appellate court agreed with the trial court that Silver had no “special relationship” that would legally obligate him to assume control of Musgrove’s safety and welfare during the trip; moreover, the Court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the chef’s conduct was outside the scope of his employment with Silver. See also Colonial Van & Storage, Inc. v. Superior Court, 76 Cal. App. 5th 487 (2022) (employer is not liable for gunshot injuries employees suffered while attending an off-site meeting at a private residence of a coworker); McCullar v. SMC Contracting, Inc., 2022 WL 181422 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022) (employee of subcontractor may not sue contractor for injuries incurred on the job).