A judge ruled Wednesday that a wrongful death claim can proceed to trial against a former chef for a movie producer stemming from the drowning death of the filmmaker’s personal assistant during a 2015 trip to Bora Bora, where the parties attended the honeymoon festivities of actors Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux.

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.

Finalizing a tentative ruling he issued Tuesday, Judge Upinder Kalra rejected arguments by the chef’s attorneys that the woman’s death was an accident attributable to her own actions.

“(Herold) had a duty to (Musgrove) when he placed her (in) peril by providing her both alcohol and drugs knowing she liked to swim at night and had previously done so,” Kalra wrote. “Thus, this breach of duty was a substantial factor, as it created a force or series of forces which are in continuous and active operation up to the time of the harm.”

A reasonable jury panel could believe that Musgrove’s death may not have occurred had she not been supplied with the alcohol and drugs because she then may have decided against going for a swim in the ocean, according to Kalra.

Kalra also disagreed with Herold’s attorneys’ arguments that it was not foreseeable that Musgrove would go swimming that night, saying the evidence shows that it was well known she had made many previous evening swims.

According to Herold’s attorneys’ court papers, 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.”

“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 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 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 Aniston and 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.

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.

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