This past summer SwimSwam reported that junior standout swimmer Dagny Knutson had won her civil lawsuit against her former attorney, Richard Foster. However, the legal battle continues to wage after the judge threw out the jury’s verdict and ordered a new trial. The judge reasoned that Knutson and her new attorney, Robert Allard, had failed to prove how someone other than Foster could have negotiated a better deal on Knutson’s behalf. That would mean that Allard and Knutson would have to try the entire case again in front of a new jury, with an additional burden to prove, in order to see a single penny from Foster.
Instead of making immediate plans for a new trial, Allard and Knutson are appealing the judge’s order and hoping to reinstate the jury’s award. Meanwhile, Knutson has completely given up swimming, telling the Washington Post, “It feels like another human swam.”
As a quick recap, Knutson was United States Swimming’s golden child less than a decade ago. In 2008, as a 16-year-old, she broke Katie Hoff’s American short course record in the 400 IM (4:00.62). She also notched public national high school records in the 200 free (1:42.81), 500 free (4:34.78) and 200 IM (1:53.82). With such early successes, Knutson accepted a full swimming scholarship to attend Auburn University, but after a visit to her hometown in North Dakota by USA Swimming head coach Mark Schubert, she decided to forgo a collegiate swimming career and turn professional. Instead of heading to Auburn, Alabama, Knutson moved to Fullerton, California, to train at USA Swimming’s Center of Excellence.
Shortly after Knutson made the move to California, USA Swimming fired Schubert, and the terms of the deal Schubert negotiated with Knutson were disputed. In addition, USA Swimming contested Schubert’s authority to enter into a verbal contract with Knutson on USA Swimming’s behalf. Knutson’s agent connected her with Foster to renegotiate a deal with USA Swimming, which included a performance requirement.
Over the next few years, Knutson battled bulimia and failed to meet the stipulated performance requirement. She lost her tuition support from USA Swimming, and struggled to finance her education and cost of living. She then petitioned the NCAA to have her amateur status restored, but was denied.
Feeling wronged and out of options, Knutson teamed up with a new attorney in 2014, Robert Allard, to bring claims against Foster for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty (in the deal negotiated by Foster, Knutson had promised not to sue Schubert or USA Swimming). Knutson claimed that Foster’s longstanding relationships with USA Swimming employees, including executive director Chuck Wielgus and Coach Schubert, amounted to a conflict of interest. In 2016, the jury ruled in Knutson’s favor, awarding her $617,800, not including punitive damages.