Film Allman, LLC just lost another appeal in an effort to wipe away the “willful safety violation” and fine imposed by the Occupational Health and Safety Commission over the production company’s actions on the set of Midnight Rider, which led to the death of 27 year-old Sarah Jones and the serious injury of several others. This time, arguments were heard in the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals which stated that the “willful safety violation” against Film Allman stand and it must pay the $70K statutory maximum fine.
“I don’t think there are any plans to appeal it,” said Film Allman attorney Amanda Clark-Palmer. “We were obviously disappointed in the decision and the brevity of the 11th Circuit’s decision.” This comes after battling three times to get the violation and fine thrown out as the lawyers progressed legally through the proper channels of the OSHA review commission and each time were denied, thereby sending them to the federal court.
The decision handed down from two circuit court judges, Robin S. Rosenbaum and Julie Carnes, and District Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger in Atlanta, comes only six days after oral arguments were heard on March 14 where attorneys for Film Allman argued three points: That certain portion of witness statements were withheld, that the evidence presented didn’t classify the actions as “willful” and that their clients shouldn’t have to pay the fine.
Film Allman, LLC was set up by writer/producer/director Randall Miller and his wife/producer Jody Savin to film the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider. Jones was killed and others injured on the set during the first day of shooting on Feb. 20, 2014.
Late yesterday, the court wrote its opinion and cited earlier findings which they affirmed and called “well-reasoned and thorough.” In their five-page opinion, the Court wrote:
“As the Film Allman crew set up to shoot a scene that afternoon on the Doctortown train trestle — an active trestle owned by CSX (‘CSX’) Transportation that spans the Altamaha river in Jesup, Georgia — a freight train barrelled through … Film Allman and its supervisors on the set that day failed at every opportunity to ensure the safety of its employees: Film Allman ‘knew the railroad tracks were live tracks, in active use by CSX and that CSX had refused permission to film on the tracks … Supervisors Miller, Savin, Sedrish and Ozier were aware no CSX representatives were present at the site to control train traffic while the employees were on the trestle. None of Film Allman’s supervisors informed the crew and cast that CSX would not be on site and would not be controlling train traffic while they were filming on the tracks.’ In short, Film Allman put its employees in harm’s way, and the results were catastrophic.”
Miller, exec producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish and first assistant director Hillary Schwartz all pleaded guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in a Georgia courtroom two years ago. Miller served time in jail in Georgia. Sedrish and Schwartz received 10 years probation.
Neither cinematographer Michael Ozier nor Savin were charged, although Savin was arrested and booked at the same time Miller was. Savin was not charged because of a deal her husband Miller and his attorneys made with the DA’s office to save her from criminal prosecution. Under that deal, he would plead guilty and serve time and she would be set free. There are still a number of civil complaints winding its way through the courts.