The family of Sarah Jones — the camera assistant killed during the filming of “Midnight Rider” — has dismissed Gregg Allman, executive producer Michael Lehman and Open Road Films as defendants in its wrongful death suit.
The family filed the suit in May against the film’s director, producers, some of its crew, Allman, distributor Open Road Films and the companies that own the railroad tracks and surrounding land. The suit, which also includes charges of negligence, asks for unspecified damages for Jones’ death and pain and suffering, plus punitive damages.
Jones died on Feb. 20, just minutes into the first day of shooting of the Allman biopic. The crew was shooting a dream sequence in which a hospitalized Allman sees his dead brother Duane on a bridge when a train struck the bed, turning its metal parts into shrapnel. Several crew members suffered injuries as they were hit by flying metal or the train itself. Jones was hit by a piece of metal and knocked into the path of the train.
A March 9 trial date has been set in Georgia for four defendants facing criminal charges related to the death of Jones and other injuries on the set. Director Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin, executive producer Jay Sedrish and first assistant director Hillary Schwartz face charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass.
Each has pleaded not guilty.
Jones family attorney Jeff Harris of Harris Penn Lowry LLP announced Thursday that Allman, Lehman and Open Road Films will be dismissed from the civil litigation.
“This firm was hired by Richard and Elizabeth Jones to find out exactly what happened to their daughter, what decisions were made that led to that fateful day and to determine, and ultimately hold accountable, those who were involved,” said Harris.
“After reviewing the many thousands of pages of documents, and other information we have obtained through the legal discovery process, it is clear that Mr. Allman and Mr. Lehman had no involvement in any of the decisions that resulted in Sarah’s death,” Harris said. “Our investigation has also shown that, in this case, Open Road Films was not directly involved in the poor decisions that led to this horrific event and the tragic loss of Sarah’s life. As a result, we are dismissing all claims against the three parties.”
Sarah Jones’ father Richard Jones also issued a statement on behalf of the family.
“The legal process is working and questions are being answered,” said Richard Jones on behalf of the Jones family. “During a very difficult and trying time for our family, Gregg Allman and Michael Lehman demonstrated their genuine sorrow over the loss of our daughter and their willingness to work with us in the future to ensure safe film sets for all. For that, we are grateful.”
Harris also issued a statement Thursday discussing the reasoning for including multiple defendants in the civil lawsuit.
“In the days and months following the accident, the Jones family was unable to access most of the evidence in this case because of legal protections in place as a part of the pending federal and state investigations into occupational safety, railway safety and potential criminal and civil liability,” Harris said. “At the same time, various parties involved made numerous conflicting and contradictory public statements about the sequence of events leading to the tragedy. The comprehensive civil lawsuit filed by the Jones family, naming multiple defendants, allowed access to extensive and voluminous evidence. We very much appreciate Mr. Allman’s and Mr. Lehman’s full cooperation during discovery and are pleased we’ve reached a place of closure with them as well as Open Road. The investigation into the actions and involvement of the remaining defendants is ongoing.”