Despite settling with the family of camera assistant Sarah Jones last week, Midnight Rider’s director and producer are still trying to escape the sights of rail company CSX. Randall Miller and Jody Savin today asked a Georgia court to dismiss them and their business entities from a cross-claim by CSX, whose remaining involvement in the ongoing civil suit filed by Jones’ family has kept the filmmakers tethered to the wrongful death case.
CSX accused Miller, Savin, Unclaimed Freight Productions, and Film Allman, LLC in September of intentional trespassing leading up to the February 20 death of 27-year-old camera assistant Jones. Jones died and several others were injured when a freight train collided into a hospital bed and equipment that the Midnight Rider crew had placed on CSX-owned tracks.
Now that Miller and Savin have settled with Jones’ parents, they’re arguing that their lingering battle with CSX is “essentially a business dispute” that shouldn’t be tried together with the wrongful death claim. “An intentional trespassing cross-claim has no relationship to whether these defendants, CSXT, or other defendants share in the responsibility for [Jones’] death,” read the motion asking a Chatham County court to dismiss Miller, Savin, and their business entities. (Read it here.)
They’re also concerned that having to answer to the CSX cross-claim in court as part of the wrongful death civil suit will unfairly prejudice a jury that, in Georgia, could assign fault to any party or non-parties deemed responsible in Jones’ death. And with a parallel criminal case carrying a potential 10 years in prison to contend with, the filmmakers say the ongoing CSX claim unfairly jeopardizes their constitutional rights.
Miller and Savin, along with unit production manager/executive producer Jay Sedrish and 1st assistant director Hillary Schwartz, each face criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in a separate criminal case set for trial in March. The criminal charges “are so intertwined with CSX’s cause of action for intentional trespass that discovery cannot proceed without causing severe prejudice to Mr. Miller and Ms. Savin in both this case and in their criminal defense,” attorneys for Miller and Savin argue.
Speaking of those attorneys: Miller and Savin also argue in today’s filing that they “very recently” retained Garland, Samuel, and Loeb to rep them on the civil suit, and that their lawyers need a 90 -day stay of discovery to get up to speed on the complex case.
The filmmakers are asking to be dismissed from the civil cross-claim alongside Unclaimed Freight and Film Allman, LLC, and also to be legally protected from answering any orders of discovery for 90 days as the court considers their request for dismissal. They’ve also asked the court to stay any and all discovery until Miller and Savin’s criminal case is resolved next spring, “to protect Miller and Savin from the oppression that would otherwise occur.”