Now we have learned a lot more about tragic gunshot death of Halyna Hutchins. The director of photography was shot dead by actor and producer Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie “Rust”. The accidental shooting occurred when he fired a propeller pistol containing live ammunition.
The nature of the event as an accident is not in question. There is no indication of a motive for anyone on the set to deliberately provoke the shooting. However, the degree of negligence involved is under scrutiny. Much of the information that emerged created more questions.
These questions will inevitably become part of the legal battle that the Hutchins family is waging to obtain fair compensation for his death. A wrongful death lawsuit will likely result in a payment of millions of dollars, and the details will impact the settlement.
Let’s take a look first at the insurance policy that covers what filmmakers presumably considered sufficient in the event of injury or death.
Insurance policy obtained by TMZ that has been purchased for the full range of “Rust” General Liability Coverage at $ 1 million per incident. However, there is also a trade umbrella policy for an additional $ 5 million. The umbrella policy is a supplement to the general liability cover.
In other words, in total, the insurance company will not pay more than $ 6 million. As we will see, this risks being woefully insufficient. Moreover, it is doubtful that the insurance company will pay at all.
The neglect that led to the shooting was immense. There are a number of factors that make the shooting more than a tragic accident. The fact that a real pistol was used is the first red flag. Then there is the fact that it did not contain blank as originally stated, but live bullets. In fact, members of the crew allegedly used the pistol to “practice marksmanship” prior to the incident.
But poor security practices, however negligent, did not tell us the most about this incident. On the contrary, there is the news that members of the crew had left the set to protest against poor security practices just hours before the incident. One of their complaints reportedly relates to an incident in which Alec Baldwin’s stuntman fired two live ammunition from a gun he was told had no ammunition.
The fact that these complaints weren’t taken seriously and that a fatal shooting took place as a result of these warnings leaves the production company and crew with a lot of responsibility. The writing was on the wall and yet no effort seems to have been made to change the practices on the set.
Chubb National has been named as the insurance company with which the “Rust” production company has its policy. It remains to be seen whether they will agree to pay anything for the death of Hutchins or the injury of director Joul Souza.
The insurance policy covers a maximum of $ 6 million, but Hutchins’ family is likely to receive much more if they sue for wrongful death. This is for a number of reasons. One is the fact that Hutchins was a “rising star” with decades of potential earnings ahead of her. Another is the fact that she was a wife and a mother. His family can file a complaint for loss of affection.
But what could take the settlement far beyond expectations is the possibility for the judge to award punitive damages. In New Mexico, where “Rust” was shot, punitive damages can be awarded if there is evidence of recklessness or gratuitous misconduct. It is no exaggeration to believe that recklessness will be easy enough to prove.
While there had clearly been a lot of negligence involved, it is unlikely that criminal charges would be laid against Baldwin or anyone else.
The losses suffered by the team behind “Rust” will likely go beyond the legal fallout of the shooting itself. While an incident like this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of production, there’s no doubt that it will tarnish the film’s reputation. It seems unlikely that the movie “Rust” will receive a positive reception if it ever comes out, as it will always be accompanied by the memory of the shoot.
This can mean that all the budget already invested in the film is wasted, and it could run into tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Depending on the terms of the cast and crew’s contracts, they may have to shell out millions more just to stop production, or face more legal challenges for lost revenue.
All in all, this is shaping up to be a very costly crash, even though the amounts awarded are in the lower end of the potential spectrum.
It is impossible to say exactly what the final cost will be. The insurance company won’t pay more than $ 6 million, and it might even refuse to pay that amount. Even if it pays, the production company behind “Rust” will likely end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars in payments, on top of potentially losing any budget already invested in production.
All of this could have been avoided if the complaints from the crew members had been taken seriously. More importantly, a person’s life would not have been lost.