×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Fault CSX in Lawsuit With Insurer

UPDATED: Film Allman, the production company behind “Midnight Rider,” is faulting CSX Corp. for failing to slow a train that plowed through the set of the movie on Feb. 20, 2014, killing camera assistant Sarah Jones and injuring eight others.

The company, owned by director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin, are making the claims as part of its lawsuit against New York Marine, the insurer which is refusing to pay for losses on the grounds that they were incurred as a result of a criminal act.

Miller served one year in jail in Jesup, Ga., after he reached a plea agreement with prosecutors on charges of criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter.

The crew had been shooting on a train trestle when a train unexpectedly came down the tracks. In the aftermath, prosecutors said that the production was aware that they did not have permission from CSX to be on the tracks. A  paper products company that owns land around the tracks, Rayonier, did grant them access to their land.

But in a filing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday, Film Allman contends that “the facts leading to the loss are far more nuanced that as presented by” New York Marine.

They cite evidence that before the accident, two passing CSX train crews “saw the film crew on and by the track and never reported it to their dispatch.” They also note that the engineer and conductor of the train that struck the set “saw that 20 people were on the trestle from 3/4 miles away, and never applied brakes of any kind to slow the train, which violated CSX’s own rules.”

The filmmakers, who are represented by Douglas Gastelum, also are raising doubts about whether they were even denied permission — or even if CSX actually owned or had authority over the tracks.

On the morning of the accident, a CSX executive, Carla Groleau, sent an email to location manager Charley Baxter and a Rayonier employee, Tina Kicklighter, saying that the company was “not able to support” the request to shoot on the tracks that day. But then Groleau sent a notice to recall the email.

“Even on the date of the accident, communications with CSX were objectively unclear, and people were of different minds regarding (1) what communications had been made…and (2) the meaning of any communication that occurred,” Film Allman said in its filing.

Under Georgia state law, criminal trespass occurs only “after receiving notice from the rightful occupant, that the actor is forbidden from entering the premises,” Film Allman noted in its filing.

“There were no ‘No Trespassing’ signs or other indications on site that Film Allman had to seek permission beyond the permission it received when Rayonier personnel opened lock gates, accompanied Film Allman to the site with full knowledge of the contents of the shot, went on the tracks themselves, watched Film Allman set up the shot, and never told Film Allman that it required addition permissions,” the filmmakers said in the filing.

A spokeswoman for CSX said that they do not comment on matters involving litigation.

Film Allman  also has raised the issue of whether Rayionier was acting as an “agent” for CSX in granting permission. The filmmakers cited testimony from prosecutor John Johnson that he knew that CSX and Rayonier had an agreement about the use of the tracks.

New York Marine is seeking a motion for partial summary judgment in the case, and a hearing scheduled for Nov. 7.

Film Allman also is raising issues with Baxter, whose testimony has been used by prosecutors and federal safety officials to bolster their contention that Miller and others on the crew were aware that they lacked permission to be on the trestle. In a decision for the Occupational Safety Review Commission last year, an administrative law judge wrote that Baxter had forwarded the Groleau’s first CSX email, declining to support the filming request, to Miller, Savin and other crew members.

Film Allman cited instances where it says that Baxter gave “differing testimony.” That included his claim in a Jan. 27, 2015 deposition that he did not come to the location on Feb. 20, 2014 out of protest, after receiving the first CSX e-mail that day. Yet Baxter made that clear in a text message he sent to Kicklighter the night before the shoot that he would not be there, according to Film Allman’s brief.

More Biz

  • Singer-rapper Psy performs during the 70th

    YG Agency Boss Quits as K-Pop Scandals Expand

    Yang Hyun-suk last week resigned from his remaining positions at YG Entertainment. The talent agency he co-founded is deeply mired in a series of inter-linked scandals that stretch from drugs to prostitution. Problems started with the band Bigbang and its star Seungri, but now also encompass other YG artists. Hwang Bo-kyung was appointed as the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • Motown Seeks to Block 'O-Town' Trademark

    Motown Seeks to Block 'O-Town' Trademark

    UPDATED: The boy band O-Town briefly rose to fame in 2000, with a star turn on MTV’s reality series “Making the Band.” But the reformed group has just one obstacle to its efforts to trademark its name: Motown Recordings. The label’s parent company, Universal Music Group, is trying to block the band from registering “O-Town” [...]

  • Alyssa Milano

    Alyssa Milano Settles $10 Million Suit With Former Accountant

    Actress Alyssa Milano has settled a legal battle with her former accountant as the case was on the verge of going to trial. Milano and her husband, agent David Bugliari, filed suit in 2017, alleging that accountant Kenneth Hellie had forged her signature on checks, failed to pay overdue bills and taxes and allowed costs [...]

  • J Balvin ‘Amicably’ Parts Ways With

    J Balvin ‘Amicably’ Parts Ways With Longtime Manager Rebeca Leon

    J Balvin and his longtime manager Rebeca León have “amicably” parted ways, reps for the singer and León confirmed to Variety. The news was first reported by Billboard. León — who also oversees the careers of fast-rising Spanish singer Rosalia as well as Colombian superstar Juanes, with whom she founded Lionfish Entertainment — began managing Balvin early in his career [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff Headshot

    Warner Bros. Taps BBC Studios Americas Chief Ann Sarnoff as CEO (EXCLUSIVE)

    Warner Bros. has tapped BBC Studios Americas president Ann Sarnoff as its new CEO, a surprise pick that is sure to shake up the venerable studio. Sarnoff becomes the first woman to head Warner Bros. in its nearly 100-year history. She was under the radar during WarnerMedia’s search for a successor to lead the studio [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content