Dagny Knutson’s Lawsuit Drags On, Appealing Judge’s Order

by Eli Noblitt 47

January 08th, 2017 Industry, National, News

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.


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cynthia curran

What a shame, unless Dagy becomes a sprinter its harder in your 20’s to comeback at the elite level. Dagy still holds the high school 200 Im record.


I don’t think she has any intention on returning.


I agree that USA Swimming should have backed the agreement Schubert made. He was the National Team head coach during the process and represented USA Swimming. It’s easy to blame the parents and the swimmer, but at 18 years old, it was evident the coach was looking out for his best interest. How someone like Mark Schubert is still connected with USA Swimming goes to illustrate how the “good ole boy” network is still at play, just like FINA.


Should’ve just went to AUB!!


She decided to not go to Auburn after Paul Yetter (who was arguable one of the top coaches in the world at the time) left. Granted, I think she easily could have just decided to attend a different school, but she chose not to go to Auburn after Yetter left, and she got a pretty nice offer to go to California.


So many bad decisions all around. You can not tell me there was nothing at Auburn after Paul Yetter left. Do you choose the school just for the ASSISTANT coach? And what adults take a kid who’s a big fish in a small pond, with private coaching, swimming and dryland, and used to a busy day with school, swimming, etc. and put her alone in an apartment in California, with no school and one practice a day? And her fellow swimmers are all much older, experienced and more accomplished. I could go on. ALL the adults, including the parents, are at fault for letting this happen. Dagny and Elizabeth Beisel are the same age — look at the difference. It… Read more »


You mean the snakeoil salesman who is now coaching at Mission Viejo? Everyone makes bad decisions, but to put the blame completely on Dagny or her parents is misguided.

Pau Hana

Walter didn’t put the blame completely on the Knutsons. “ALL the adults, including the parents, are at fault…”


Correct. And in the Swimming World article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/03/AR2009030303239.html) she says the disordered eating began long before any of this happened. It is easy to hide these things from your parents. We can not change the past.


I don’t think you get it.

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