Sarah Jones' parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday against the Allman Brothers Band singer and producers of the film "Midnight Rider." The 27-year-old camera assistant died Feb. 20 when a freight train slammed into the crew during shooting on a railroad bridge in southeast Georgia. Six other workers were injured.
Richard Jones said in a phone interview Thursday he believes most Hollywood filmmakers see his daughter's death as "a wakeup call for them and they will change on their own." For others who put profits above safety, he said, the family's lawsuit should help drive the message home.
"There's a minority of people in the industry that are too much about the dollar, and unfortunately it takes slapping them upside the head with the dollar in order to get their attention," Jones said. "That's part of what this is about."
The Jones family of Columbia, South Carolina, is seeking unspecified monetary damages in State Court in Savannah, where the "Midnight Rider" production was based. Their lawsuit names 10 individuals and eight corporations as defendants. They include director Randall Miller and his company, Unclaimed Freight Productions, as well as several executive producers and top assistants working on the film. The lawsuit also targets forest-products company Rayonier, which owns the property surrounding the train tracks, and CSX Transportation, which owns the railroad tracks.
The lawsuit says the filmmakers decided to film on the railroad bridge despite being denied permission by CSX, and misled Sarah Jones and other crew members to believe they had a permit. The lawsuit says that Rayonier allowed the film crew on its property and that a company employee wrongly told producers only two trains would be crossing the bridge that day. It says CSX knew the film crew planned to be in the area and should have taken precautions.
Allman's attorneys said they had no immediate comment Thursday. So did spokesmen for the director, Rayonier and CSX.
Although Allman wasn't on the film set when the crash occurred, he's being sued in his role as an executive producer on the project.
"He has legal responsibility for what happens on the shoot," said attorney Jeffrey R. Harris, who represents the Jones family. "He, at least on paper, is a member of the management structure of the film."
Allman sued Miller and his company to stop the director from restarting the film, which was shelved after the crash. They settled out of court last week without disclosing the terms. The singer's attorney, David Long-Daniels, said the filmmakers' actions had harmed Allman's reputation.
Allman's lawyers put Miller on the witness stand last week before settling their lawsuit. The director insisted location permits and safety measures were the responsibility of his assistants.
"I'm not the one who does permits," Miller said. "I'm the director."
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