Open Road Films, which was to be the distributor of “Midnight Rider,” is asking Georgia state judge to dismiss it from a civil lawsuit filed by the family of Sarah Jones, the camera assistant who was killed in the Feb. 20 train accident on the set of the movie.
The company said in a court filing in Chatham County State Court that there is “no causal connection between any conduct of Open Road and any alleged loss or damages plaintiffs contend they suffered.”
It also said that the action should be dismissed because the court lacks jurisdiction over Open Road, among a number of defenses it outlined in its brief.
The family of Sarah Jones filed a civil lawsuit against 18 defendants in May, claiming that the production failed to take reasonable, minimum safety precautions and failed to comply with applicable industry standards. The suit claims that the defendants knew they did not have permission to shoot on the CSX railroad tracks, where Jones was killed and six others were injured when a train came unexpectedly as the production was shooting on a train trestle.
In the family’s complaint, they contended that Open Road retained “individual responsibility for ensuring that ‘Midnight Rider’ filming was conducted in a safe and legal manner, in compliance with applicable industry standards.”
But Open Road’s filing outlines a long series of defenses, some them standard to a negligence suit, pointing to others’ responsibilities for the safety on the set. It contends that “intervening wrongful and/or criminal conduct of third persons was the immediate and effective cause of plaintiffs’ damages.”
The film’s director, Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and executive producer Jay Sedrish also are defendants in the case. They are facing criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. Miller and Savin have plead not guilty, and Sedrish has not yet been arraigned.
In its answer to the civil lawsuit, Open Road also said that the family’s claim against it is barred because Jones “did not exercise ordinary care, caution and prudence in connection with the transactions and events alleged in the complaint.” It contends that the plaintiffs are barred from recovering damages against Open Road by the doctrine of contributory negligence, or that any damages must be “proportionately reduced” under the doctrine of comparative negligence.
“Plaintiffs’ claim is barred, in whole or in part, because Jones freely and voluntarily assumed the risk of injury and damage in the complaint,” Open Road said in its filing.
Open Road also filed a motion to stay discovery for 90 days until Nov. 6 to give the country time to hear its motion to dismiss.
Another defendant, WME BI Holdings, also asked to be dismissed from the case, contending that it is a holding company and “did not engaged in any of the activities” outlined in the Jones family’s complaint. WME was named in the suit as the loan out corporation for another defendant, cinematographer Mike Ozier.