Dagny Knutson’s Civil Case Against Former Attorney Begins Today

The civil lawsuit between former American record-holder Dagny Knutson and her former attorney Richard Foster begins today in California.

Knutson originally filed the suit in the fall of 2014. Now, The Orange County Register reports that the trial will begin this week in the Orange County Superior Court.

In the suit, Knutson alleges that Foster didn’t disclose a conflict of interest when he represented her in a dispute with USA Swimming in 2010. She is suing the attorney for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.

Knutson was one of USA Swimming’s top young talents. At 16, she broke the American record in the 400 yard IM. At 17, she won a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships as part of the U.S. 4×200 free relay, and in 2013, she won gold as part of that team.

Based out of Minot, North Dakota in high school, Knutson originally committed to Auburn. But when coach Paul Yetter left the program, Knutson rescinded her commitment and turned pro.

Per The OC Register, Knutson and fellow pro swimmer Kate Ziegler were told by then-USA Swimming National Team Director Mark Schubert that if they moved to California to join the elite training group USA Swimming was building (it was eventually called “FAST” or “Fullerton Area Swim Team”), that the national governing body would cover their tuition to a local school, room and board and training expenses.

But Schubert was let go by USA Swimming, and in the changeover at his position, USA Swimming told Knutson and Zeigler that only some of those expenses would be covered.

That’s where Foster entered the picture. The attorney reached out to USA Swimming President Chuck Wielgus in November of 2010, representing Knutson and Ziegler and seeking resolution to their situation.

But Foster had a history with swimming’s governing body. He was the former president of USA Water Polo. He had previously represented Schubert legally. Wielgus, according to The OC Register, was a longtime friend, and Foster had many personal connections with USA Swimming management. Foster had also represented USA Swimming as an organization in front of FINA, the world governing body for aquatics.

Foster managed to procure a new deal for the two swimmers, but Knutson now alleges that the deal was much worse than the original terms they were promised. The new model was tied heavily to the swimmers’ world rankings – and as Knutson struggled with depression and an eating disorder over the next few years, the returns diminished and the deal was eventually terminated.

The OC Register reported this week on the start of the trial, including some emails between Foster and Wielgus.

The case is a bit of a tangled spiderweb in terms of relationships between attorneys and clients.

Knutson is now represented by Bob Allard, whose history with USA Swimming is on the opposite spectrum from Foster. Rather than representing the swimming body, Allard has opposed USA Swimming in several high-profile abuse cases, including the case of banned coach Rick Curl.

Allard also directly opposed Foster in another case, in which Allard’s client, a former coach at Golden West Swim Club, alleged that she was wrongfully terminated by Schubert for complaining about what she saw as inappropriate behavior by a Golden West coach toward young female swimmers. Schubert was represented by Foster in that case, which settled out of court in 2014.

The coach accused of the inappropriate behavior was banned for three years in 2013.

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Go Dagny

I hope the OC Register article is true and she received a real settlement with USA Swimming. There is so much good old boy network and corruption here playing with the life and career of a then teenager. How Wielgus stays in his job is beyond me. The OC Register article is shocking. The confidential communication is supposed to be with the attorney and client, not the opposing party. I see no effort to work for Dagny’s best interest, but instead to keep a friendly ongoing relationship with USA Swimming.
Best of luck Dagny, you deserve it.

Coach Dia Rianda

Verdict in: 6/29/16 “USA Swimming brand or not, what certain individuals ( namely Schubert, Foster and Weilgus and others) did to this beautiful girl and incredible swimmer is disgusting and deplorable…..,And,what they did to her through the litigation process and what it sounds like they will continue to do is unbelievable.” The brand will be much better off without men who exploit, take advantage, use and abuse young swimmers for their own personal gain. This sport needs to purge itself of the tight group of good ole boy barons who objectify athletes in pursuit of their place in Olympic glory and the financial and entrisic rewards they receive as a result. I understand very well Dagny’s journey and appreciate her… Read more »

Go Dagny

Even sadder is seeing Wielgus figuring in writing out how best to weasel his way out of promises made to two of his best athletes by USA Swimming. It boggles the mind, really that Foster told Wielgus he was lucky it was him and not some other attorney. It almost directly said he would not aggressively fight for his clients to the opponent. I hope it is a Jury Trial. I think it would strongly be to her advantage.

James

This is a prime example of the hypocrisy of the amateur/professional swimmer debate, which forces swimmers (who have a very small window of opportunity) to choose between an education and a chance to monetize a skill they have spent a small lifetime developing. It’s obvious USA Swimming leadership had the intention of trying to develop a high level swim program independent of the monopoly that the NCAA level holds on most of the swimming talent under the age of 22, but obviously got cold feet with the leadership transition. Unfortunately you can’t have it both ways, and the chances of achieving anything beyond a meager stipend and low-end sponsorship deals within the world of swimming are limited to only a… Read more »

TAA

And Chuck keeps on collecting $1Million a year in salary. That would provide funding for 20 swimmers at 50K a pop I hope they pay the cost of this lawsuit out his salary. He wont even notice. Who needs a million a year to live in Colorado Springs? Totally ridiculous..

swim mom

The answer is getting the swimmers to unionize internationally. If the athletes band together and demand a seat at the table, NGBs around the world and FINA will have to sit down and make fair deals for the athletes. I also think that an athletes union would help rid the sport of doping since most athletes are adamantly opposed to cheaters. USA Swimming is a lot more fair to athlete than other NGBs– eg South Africa– but it could better.

James

I agree…but it still wouldn’t help a swimmer in a NCAA program. I think Katie Ledecky is a prime example; why on earth is the best female swimmer on the plant not a professional swimmer? Because she needs to keep eligibility to swim for Stanford – a choice that is easily costing her millions in potential especially assuming a successful run in Rio.

Jimswim

She doesn’t ‘Need to keep eligibility.’ She is choosing to keep eligibility. She could take the money and go pro if she wished. Although that decision hasn’t turned out great in swimming results for very many American swimmers who have gone pro as teenagers.

Steve Nolan

What if…she didn’t have to choose!?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw

It literally wouldn’t change anything if she could pick up endorsements or win prize money. (Hell, Joe Schooling’s already gotten almost $400,000 from Singapore, that hasn’t been a problem at all.)

G.I.N.A.

NCAA can’t control the world . That’s what you get for giving foreign nationals scholarships.

James

Jim, I simply mean there is no middle ground between professional and college swimming. No she doesn’t “need” it, but if she desires a college swimming experience she must forgo a considerable amount of financial potential she currently has…with no guarantee that it will be in place again in 4 years. This isn’t the NBA where a draft takes place each year ushering in new opportunities for professional level play. For swimming, the Olympics is it.

G.I.N.A.

KL could get any sort of academic scholarship from Stanford & stay amateur & toddle down to the pool & train with the Stanford squad (errrrhhh maybe not the men’s ). She could earn enough by being pro to pay for Stanford many times over & toddle down to the Stanford pool or Palo Alto or any in the Bay area.. However it looks like she wants to race NCAA We have a Private university that gives scholarships to swimmers . It has its own club & squad which boasts Cam MacEvoy. However you can get an academic scholarship & train at your home pool/club e.g. Madeline Groves The University is still proud of her & lists her achievements. I… Read more »

G.I.N.A.

Yeah well civil lawsuits just pertain to the plaintiffs & are no one’s business really.

Swimdad

Gina. It is our business as USA S keeps raising membership dues. They are in the process of selling their insurance company. why?. OC register didn’t mention the $400000 payoff Schubert got from USA S

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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