The state court jury in Savannah, Ga., decided unanimously to award the family nearly $2 million for pain and suffering and $9.2 million for the economic loss from Sarah Jones’ life, according a spokeswoman for the attorneys for the family. The jury also assigned CSX 35% of the fault.
Other defendants are production company Film Allman and Rayonier.
Jones was killed and six others were injured on the set of “Midnight Rider” outside Doctortown, Ga., on a railroad trestle above the Altamaha River after a train came down the tracks at 58 mph during production. The crew had less than one minute to evacuate the location and the train ran into a metal bed being used by the crew for a scene that was part of a dream sequence in the Gregg Allman biopic. Jones was struck by shrapnel that propelled her toward the moving train.
Jones’ family sued CSX, alleging that the railroad did not follow company policy. Filmmaker Randall Miller settled with the family in late 2014 and spent a year in jail after pleading guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass.
The production company did not secure a permit from the owner of the tracks, CSX Transportation Corp. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued nearly $75,000 in safety fines. An appeals panel upheld the sanctions after they were challenged by Film Allman, the company that Miller and his wife, Jody Savin, set up to make the independent feature.
Jones’ family started the Safety for Sarah movement to advocate for increased safety in film production.
The parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, released a statement after the verdict:
“Elizabeth and I have spent the last 3 plus years wanting to understand how our daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Jones, tragically lost her life. That search has now come to a close.
Sarah’s life was a bright beacon of hope that was snuffed out too soon.
Elizabeth and I want to thank our attorney, Jeff Harris, his partners and exceptional staff, who worked so hard for Sarah. We also would like to thank our Columbia attorney Jake Moore for his guidance.
We felt that this trial was necessary in order to learn what happened that tragic day of February 20, 2014. It is only with the discovery of what could have been done differently that we might avoid another similar tragic loss of life.
We have learned much from this trial. No doubt that the decisions made by those in charge of Film Allman, LLC were foolish, criminal and, in our view, selfish. That said, this trial disclosed a number of exceptionally poor judgements and ignored opportunities by CSX Transportation to prevent this tragedy. Frankly, I believe that the evidence in this trial indicated that CSX has systemic issues that need corrected. We miss you Sarah.”