Director Randall Miller is behind bars, but the battle over Midnight Rider and his guilt in the death of Sarah Jones continues in court. Today, in an amended complaint filed by lawyers for producers Film Allman LLC against New York Marine and General Insurance Company, an accompanying letter makes it clear that Miller doesn’t agree with his own involuntary manslaughter guilty plea of March 9.
“Mr. Miller entered a guilty plea to save his wife, Ms. Savin, from criminal liability and to ensure that that she could remain with their children in California,” says a March 23 letter from attorney Mary Craig Calkins of one of the legal consequences from the on-set death of the camera assistant in a rural Georgia train accident last year. “Mr. Miller contends that he is innocent, and disputes his guilt in this matter. Both Mr. Miller and his counsel, Ed Garland, contested some of the factual findings read into the record by the prosecutor, and Mr. Miller anticipates … that his plea will be set aside.”
“The benefit of this First Offender provision is that after the conditions of the sentence are completed, Mr. Miller can state that he has never been convicted of a crime,” the 19-page letter from the lawyer adds of the 10-year sentence the director received. The point of that is that without a criminal conviction, insurance money would kick in. Something that New York Marine’s attorney swats away in his April 13 response letter, also accompanying today’s amended compliant in federal court. “As far as the criminal acts exclusion, there is no coverage for loss caused by criminal acts of the insured, its partners, members, officers, managers, employees and authorized representatives,” says Leon Gladstone of Marina del Rey firm Weisberg Willner & Sloane. “It is beyond argument that Mr. Miller was a member, manager, officer and authorized representative of Film Allman, LLC, and was acting in that capacity when he committed the criminal acts that resulted in Ms. Jones’ death and his own injuries. These criminal acts were the cause of the loss resulting in the claim.”
This was just one of the revelations from the amended complaint motion (read it here) filed Monday that essentially accuses New York Marine of killing any and all efforts to get the shuttered Gregg Allman biopic back on the track after the death of Jones and the injuring of other crew members last year. “This insurance dispute is based in Defendant’s failure and refusal to investigate the facts of the accident, failure to investigate coverage under all available policies, and breach of the insurance contracts that were purchased to assuage precisely the sorts of concerns that arose from that terrible accident,” says today’s filing. Part of today’s paperwork was a contention by Film Allman that the settlement worked out with the Jones family last fall was agreed to over “objections” from the producer with the $5 million deal basically emptying New York Marine’s coffers for the case.
Through Film Allman, the company they established for the movie Miller and his wife, fellow Midnight Rider producer Jody Savin, first took the insurance company to court last August. That L.A. Superior Court case was transferred to federal court soon afterward. “Film Allman does not seek to amend as a dilatory or bad faith tactic, but instead wishes to resolve its rights to insurance coverage from New York Marine in a single action,” says a memorandum filed with the amended complaint. The two sides differ as to what constituted a new production after the accident.
“New York Marine’s bad faith conduct left Film Allman with the prospect of having to abandon production entirely,” notes today’s other memorandum with the amended complaint about restarting the film after the accident (read it here). The amended complaint is seeking breach of contract damages amid a variety of remedies for a film that pretty much no one wanted see move forward. “In a classic ‘Catch 22,’ Film Allman could not proceed with the Film without obtaining its insurance proceeds, and it could not obtain its insurance proceeds until it continued filming. 29. In sum, New York Marine sabotaged the Film, the very thing that it agreed to insure and protect when it issued the Producers Policy to Film Allman.”
A hearing is set for June 1 in L.A. federal court on the motion of amended complaint, with a trial penciled in to begin on March 15. Douglas W. Gastelum of Long Beach is representing the plaintiffs in this case.