2ND UPDATE, 4:45 PM: Open Road Films, which had been set to release Midnight Rider in the U.S., issued a statement about the new lawsuit late this afternoon: “This event was a horrible tragedy, and our deepest condolences go out to the Jones family, the crew members and others who have suffered. Open Road Films was not involved in the production in any way at any time, and we have been named in this suit without justification.”
UPDATED WITH COURT DOCUMENT: Today’s lawsuit, which seeks unspecified punitive damages, claims that Sarah Jones was killed because the defendants ”operated without minimum safety precautions and contrary to standard industry practices for productions of this scale and for productions involving dangerous filming conditions.” (Read the filing here.) It also claims that a CSX rail company rep told one or more of the defendants that only two trains would pass per day at the filming location, and that none of the production’s crew obtained permission to film on the train trestle bridge – and that they concealed this fact from the rest of the crew.
This is the second suit to arise from the Midnight Rider shoot. The biopic’s subject, Gregg Allman, sued director Randall Miller’s production company Unclaimed Freight on May 2 alleging that their big-screen option rights to his life have ended. That case was settled last week.
PREVIOUSLY: A whopping 18 defendants were named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Georgia this afternoon by the parents of Midnight Rider camera assistant Sarah Jones, who was killed in a train collision during filming on the indie feature on February 20. Jones’ parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, filed the complaint in Georgia’s State Court of Chatham County on behalf of their daughter’s estate, asking for a jury trial. Among those named as defendants in the Jones family suit were director/producer Randall Miller and producer wife Jody Savin, along with their Unclaimed Freight production company. Unit production manager Jay Sedrish, 1st A.D. Hillary Schwartz, location manager Charlie Baxter, and exec producer Nick Gant and his Meddin Studios were also named, as was Midnight Rider distributor Open Road Films, exec producer Gregg Allman, and Film Allman, LLC.
Jones died nearly three months ago in rural Jesup, GA during filming on Miller’s biopic of rocker Gregg Allman when a train collided with equipment set on active tracks on a train trestle over the Altamaha River. The tragedy injured seven other crew members, many of whom are also expected to file lawsuits of their own. A criminal investigation by Wayne County Sheriff’s Department has been turned over to the D.A.’s office for consideration.
Also named in today’s filing were paper company Rayonier, who granted crew permission to access the land near the trestle; train company CSX which owns the tracks; executive producer Don Mandrik; executive producer Michael Lehman; director of photography Mike Ozier; and Ozier’s loan-out company WME Bi Holdings, LLC.