The producers of “Midnight Rider” have filed suit against its insurance company New York Marine, contending that it has refused to pay claims after the production halted and incurred at least $1.6 million in losses.
Camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed and six others were injured in a Feb. 20 accident on the set of “Midnight Rider,” a biopic of singer Gregg Allman, when a train unexpectedly came on tracks where the production was shooting a scene near Jesup, Ga.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court by Film Allman, the production entity that director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin set up for the movie’s production. The suit also claims that the insurer refused to cover the project at the 11th hour as producers attempted to restart production with a revised script.
Miller and Savin, along with executive producer Jay Sedrish, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. Miller and Savin have pleaded not guilty, and Sedrish has not yet been arraigned. They also are among the defendants in a civil suit filed by the family of Jones.
In the lawsuit, Film Allman contends that its losses “are clearly covered under the policy that New York Marine issued in connection with ‘Midnight Rider'” but that the insurer has “refused to pay the claim pursuant to an agreed-upon schedule.”
“Even worse, New York Marine unjustifiably has taken the position that the policy will no longer insure ‘Midnight Rider’ on a forward going basis and has threatened to cancel the policy altogether, thereby leaving Film Allman without any insurance coverage for the restarted production,” the suit contends.
Film Allman’s lawsuit says that Miller was covered by a provision of the policy that protects the production from losses if a cast member or principal is unable to perform, with a $5 million liability for each loss. After the accident, Miller was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and “was physically and psychologically unable to continue filming for several months,” the lawsuit states. Because he was covered by the policy, Film Allman submitted a claim for shutdown and startup costs, estimated to be more than $1.6 million.
Even though New York Marine agreed on a schedule of payments that would provide the cash flow to resume production, the suit contends, it made three payments but refused to make any further ones. The producers say that New York Marine “ultimate acknowledged that the policy covered the claim.”
The suit also claims that New York Marine agreed to revisions in the script and shooting locations, but that it then took the position that it was a “new” production and refused to insure the project going forward. According to the suit, the focus of the movie would be refocused on “the rock and roll world in the 1970s generally, rather than the life of Gregg Allman.”
“Film Allman cannot proceed with the film without insurance, and cannot absorb the costs associated with a further delay of the film while it attempts to procure new insurance at the last minute,” the suit states. “The latter task would be especially difficult, given the existing negative publicity surrounding both the film and the accident.
“In sum, New York Marine has sabotaged the film, the very thing that it agreed to insure and protect when it issued the policy to Film Allman.”
The suit claims breach of contract, anticipatory repudiation and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. It also seeks declaratory relief.
A spokeswoman for the insurance company did not immediately return a request for comment.