The controversial Midnight Rider feature film may yet restart production, despite the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones and involuntary manslaughter charges against director Randall Miller and producers Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish, according to a court complaint filed this week.
Through Film Allman, the company they established for the Gregg Allman biopic, Miller and Savin filed suit Tuesday in L.A. County Superior Court against insurance company New York Marine.
“This action arises from New York Marine’s bad faith refusal to honor its obligations to pay for losses incurred by Film Allman, its insured,” says the 12-page breach-of-contract suit. “Following a fatal on-set accident, which also resulted in injuries to several of the film’s crew members and director, Film Allman was forced to shut down and then restart the production, incurring losses in excess of $1.6 million,” the complaint, filed on August 12, adds (read it here). The suit asks for a jury trial to decide the case.
The 27-year old Jones was killed outside of Jesup, Georgia late on Feb. 20, when she was hit by debris from a collision between a freight train and a metal hospital bed that had been placed on the tracks for the filming of a scene. Filming closed down after the incident and since has led to several legal actions, including the criminal charges against the lead filmmakers. (Read Deadline’s investigation into the tragedy here.)
According to the filing, Miller suffered physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident, rendering him “physically and psychologically unable to continue filming for several months following the accident.” In Tuesday’s filing, the filmmakers say script revisions submitted by Film Allman to New York Marine after the film was first suspended changed the project’s focus from Allman’s life to a 1970s-set story set in the world of rock and roll, leading the insurer to argue that the project was a new production not covered under the original agreement.
Part of what seems to outrage Miller and Savin is that the insurance company actually paid out some of the claim on the shuttered pic, but then halted further payments.
“Even worse, New York Marine unjustifiably has taken the position that the policy no longer will insure Midnight Rider on a forward-going basis and has threatened to cancel the policy altogether, thereby leaving Film Allman without any insurance coverage for the restarted production,” says the densely written complaint. “As a result, Film Allman is now saddled with over $1.6 million in losses and the prospect of having to abandon Midnight Rider entirely in light of New York Marine’s stated intention of cancelling the film’s insurance policy.”
Deadline reported in April that producers were trying to restart filming in the Los Angeles area. Allman subsequently sued the filmmakers to prevent a restart, but that case was later settled over undisclosed terms. Film Allman is represented by Michael O’Conner, Audrey Jing Faber and Richard DeLossa of LA firm Kelley Drye & Warren LLP.