Sunday, January 16, 2022

Potential legal problems escalate after ‘Rust’ filming tragedy

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Alec Baldwin, the actor who pulled the trigger on his rifle while filming Rust in New Mexico and unwittingly killed the filmmaker and injured the director, is unlikely to be held criminally or civilly liable for the tragedy. …

But Alec Baldwin may be a producer along with several others in leadership positions in a western.

Experts are predicting huge legal consequences of the tragedy, definitely in civil lawsuits and possibly criminal cases. In addition to Baldwin, a survey on the day of filming obtained by the Associated Press lists five producers, four executive producers, a line producer, and a co-producer. They, as well as assistant director Dave Halls and gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez, may face any liability even if they are not there on Thursday.

The payout, which may be partially covered by the insurance company Rust Movie Productions, is likely to be “millions and millions” of dollars.

“There was blatant negligence on set,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA Law School and an expert on gun policy. “The producers had to ensure the safety of the crew. There were obvious dangers on the set. ”

Authorities said on Friday that Assistant Director Halls handed the weapon over to Baldwin and declared “melee weapons” indicating that they could be used safely. But it was loaded with live ammunition. Cinematographer Galina Hutchins was fatally wounded, and director Joel Sousa, who was standing behind her, was injured.

Baldwin, best known for his roles in Rock 30 and The Hunt for Red October and his impression of former President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Air, called the murder a “tragic accident.”

The production of Rust was surrounded by controversy from the start in early October, and seven crew members left the set hours before filming began. The Los Angeles Times, citing two unnamed crew members, reported that Baldwin’s understudy accidentally fired two live rounds five days before the firing after being told the pistol was out of ammunition.

Alarmed by the misfire, a crew member told the production manager in a text message, “We had 3 accidental emissions. It is very unsafe, ”reads a report reviewed by the newspaper.

Winkler called previous misfires – and the apparent lack of action after them – “a recipe for very significant liability for damage.”

“You cannot have a dangerous situation, know about it and do nothing,” he said.

Production company Rust Movie Productions has said it is collaborating with Santa Fe authorities in their investigation.

“While we have not been notified of any formal complaints regarding the safety of weapons or props on set, we will conduct an internal review of our procedures while production is halted,” Rust Movie Productions said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times.

Although New Mexico law defines manslaughter in part as a lawful act that resulted in death “unlawfully or without due care and discretion,” defense attorney Nina Marino said she doubted the prosecution.

“If a local agency in New Mexico is going to bring criminal charges, it will have a real deterrent effect on further filming taking place in New Mexico, and I think New Mexico appreciates this business,” said Marino, who specializes in white collar workers. cases as a co-founder of the law firm Kaplan Marino.

Any film requires insurance, and any western policy will cover the use of horses, other animals, and firearms. Only the call sheet for Thursday mentions several guns, several horses, and a daily snake.

According to Julie Shapiro, professor of law and director of the Entertainment and Media Law Institute at Loyola Law School, the insurer will likely cover any incidental events, but the company may not pay for the set’s negligence claims.

The insurance company will conduct its own investigation to determine if negligence has occurred, Shapiro said. The exact formulation of the policy will determine how much the company will pay.

While Baldwin, other producers, assistant director, and gunsmith may be called parties to a civil lawsuit, not everyone can be held accountable, especially if they played no role in the safety aspects of the production or were only concerned with vanity. credit. Plaintiffs are likely to chase the production company’s deeper pockets.

“How much? How much is it covered by the insurance? It’s a loss of life – you can’t place the dollar amount,” Shapiro said.

On-set fatalities have led to security reforms in the past, but Jeff Harris is a founding partner of Harris Lowry Manton LLP and lead attorney in two high-profile trolley accident and filming lawsuits, including stuntman John Bernecker in the film ” The Walking Dead and cinematographer Sarah Jones at Midnight Rider said such incidents are rare as long as the cast and crew follow the standard rules for the use of firearms in the film industry.

“They’re not hard,” Harris said. “They’ve been around for many years. And it struck me that this will not happen if basic safety rules are followed. End.”


This was reported by Bahr from Pittsburgh.

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