A Chatham County, Georgia, jury ordered CSX Transportation to pay nearly $4 million to the family of a film crew member killed on a railroad trestle in 2014 during the shooting of a biopic about Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band.
Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was run over by a CSX freight train and killed during the first day of filming “Midnight Rider” on Feb. 20, 2014. The crew was on a railroad trestle in Southeastern Georgia filming a scene with actor William Hurt, who was cast to play Mr. Allman, when a CSX train barreled through and struck Ms. Jones. Her family sued the railroad company and several others over her tragic death.
On Monday, July 17, the Savannah jury found that CSX was 35 percent responsible for Ms. Jones’ death and ordered the railroad to pay her family $3.9 million. The family is entitled to an additional $7.3 million from other sources, but it isn’t clear how much of that money they will receive.
“This trial disclosed a number of exceptionally poor judgments and ignored opportunities by CSX Transportation to prevent this tragedy,” Jones’ parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones of Columbia, South Carolina, said in a written statement to the Associated Press.
The Joneses alleged that the CSX train engineers of two trains failed to call dispatch to report movie crew standing on both sides of the tracks in violation of company policy that train operators report trespassers immediately.
They also alleged that CSX failed to brake until after it struck a hospital bed the film crew had placed across the tracks. “Actor William Hurt, hired to play Allman, had been lying in the bed before the train came upon the crew at 53 mph. Hurt escaped unharmed,” the AP reported.
The family also sued the film’s director, Randall Miller, the film’s other production managers, and several others. All defendants but CSX settled or otherwise resolved the case out of court.
In the aftermath of the accident, Mr. Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass charges and served one year in jail. Production of “Midnight Rider” was suspended after the accident and Mr. Allman went to court to stop Mr. Miller from reviving the film. Mr. Allman died in Savannah in May at the age of 69.
CSX and its lawyers assert the accident, which also injured six other film crew members, was completely the filmmakers’ fault. The railroad said it twice denied the crew permission to shoot on the Altamaha River bridge near Jesup, Georgia. Three of Ms. Jones’ coworkers testified that production managers never told the film crew that they weren’t permitted on the bridge.
CSX plans to appeal the jury verdict.