EXCLUSIVE: Midnight Rider’s production company Film Allman is still fighting The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in federal court over whether the safety citations against them will stand. All depositions have been taken and lawyers for both sides have until July 14th to file post hearing briefs. The judge’s decision on whether Film Allman committed one willful and one serious safety violation “for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards” will come after she pours over the 1,500 pages of transcripts that have been logged to date. If Film Allman loses their bid, it will not only have to pay $74,900 in fines, but it also puts them in the line of fire for legal liability.
OSHA and Film Allman attorneys faced off early this year in a Savannah, GA federal courtroom in what became a mini-trial about the on-set death and injury of 27 year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones and the physical injuries to five others. The biopic was about rocker Gregg Allman. Fifteen Midnight Rider crew members were on the Doctortown trestle when a train smashed through the hospital bed prop that was blocking the track. When the train hit the prop, it sent shrapnel flying killing Jones and injuring others. Some crew members hovered in fear on the small, wooden plank on the side of the track, holding onto a small wire for dear life — two stories high over the Altamaha river. Others ,like actor William Hurt, who was portraying Allman in the film, literally ran for their lives to get off the trestle before the train crashed through the set.
A willful violation is one “committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health,” according to OSHA. The serious citation was lodged against Film Allman for “exposing workers to fall hazards while working on a train trestle that was not equipped with safety guardrails or other fall protection measures.” A serious violation occurs, according to OSHA, “when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.”
Film Allman is contesting the OSHA violation despite the fact that location manager Charlie Baxter testified in the federal trial that he it was his understanding they did not have permission to be on the train track. He said under oath that he relayed the denial of permission from CSX to the supervising crew members. He said he knew Midnight Rider film director Randall Miller was going to try to get the shot anyway, and he didn’t want to be a party to it so he didn’t go to the shoot that day out of protest.
They are also contesting the violation despite the fact that three of the four supervising crew members have already plead guilty to criminal charges. Miller pled guilty to criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jones in exchange for the dismissal of charges against Savin, his wife. The film’s unit production manager Jay Sedrish and first assistant director Hillary Schwartz were also convicted this month on the charges. Miller is serving a two-year jail sentence and then eight years probation. Charges against Savin were dismissed. Sedrish and Schwartz were released on 10 years probation.