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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Fines upheld for fatal Georgia movie set accident

Movie sets can be dangerous places to work, particularly when there are action scenes involved. Just recently, two people were killed and another was seriously injured in a plane crash during the filming of "Mena," a Tom Cruise movie, in Colombia.

Last year, a camera assistant was killed and eight other people were injured by a train that appeared unexpectedly while they were working on the movie "Midnight Rider" here in Georgia. The film is based on the life of musician Gregg Allman.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that the director and the production company were guilty of willful safety violations. They appealed the $75,000 in fines in connection with those violations. The director is also facing criminal charges for the incident. He pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter and is serving a two-year sentence in a Georgia jail.

The production company, Film Allman, claimed that they were told that only two trains were going to pass by where they were working that day and that once that occurred, they thought it was safe to have people on the trestle. However, a judge rejected that contention and refused to overturn the fines. She noted that up to 33 trains pass by that area daily.

According to an OSHA official, the production company was "fully aware that the railroad tracks were live, and that they did not have permission to film there." Reportedly, actor William Hurt expressed concerns about whether they would have enough time to get to safety if a train came, but, according to the judge in the case, those in charge of the set "did not seriously address his safety concerns."

The OSHA official said that while the decision won't undue the tragic consequences of those mistakes, "we hope that it will serve as a reminder to the film industry that safety has an important, necessary role on every set and in every workplace."

Just as with any work site, those who manage movie and TV sets are required to provide as safe an environment as possible for everyone working there. If they fail in that obligation, they can face OSHA penalties and possibly criminal charges. If you or someone you love has been hurt in the workplace and you believe that it could have been prevented with proper safety precautions, it's wise to seek legal guidance to determine what your options are.

Source: Variety, "Judge Upholds ‘Midnight Rider’ OSHA Fines: Sarah Jones’ Death ‘Was Entirely Preventable’," Ted Johnson, Sep. 16, 2015

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