A script supervisor who was standing next to cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when she was fatally shot with a prop weapon fired by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of the film “Rust” is entitled to punitive damages from some of the producers because saving money was more important to them than crew safety, her lawyers argue in new court papers.
Attorneys for Mamie Mitchell brought the court papers Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court in response to a motion by lawyers for Rust Movie Productions LLC, Thomasville Pictures LLC, Ryan Smith and Langley Cheney to strike the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages against them.
“Defendants intentionally failed to take the standard precautions and implement standard safety protocols for the safe use of weapons during the filming of `Rust’ because of their prioritization of profit over the safety and well-being of crew members…,” Mitchell’s lawyers state in their court papers.
As part of the alleged cost-cutting measures taken to produce “Rust” within a “low-budget mold,” the producers “intentionally failed to hire experienced crew members to manage and handle the numerous weapons that were to be used in the film,” Mitchell’s attorneys argue in their court papers.
Days before the shooting, a camera operator had reported two unexpected gun discharges during a rehearsal in a cabin, Mitchell’s attorneys further argue.
“This is super unsafe,” the camera operator wrote in a text message to the production manager, according to the Mitchell attorneys.
In their court papers urging dismissal of the punitive damages claim against their clients, attorneys for the producers named in the motion argue that even if assuming the shooting was intentional rather than an accident, it was not a deliberate act by any production member.
“Plaintiff alleges Alec Baldwin alone pulled the trigger and plaintiff concedes there was nothing in the script about the gun being discharged,” the producers’ attorneys argue in their court papers.
Mitchell’s original suit was filed Nov. 17, alleging that she was “standing in the line of fire when the gun went off.” She then filed an amended suit on Feb. 8. The 64-year-old Baldwin is one of the defendants.
Hutchins, 42, was killed on Oct. 21, 2021, while Baldwin, a producer and star of “Rust,” was helping to prepare camera angles for a scene on the film’s set near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Baldwin, 63, fired a weapon which was supposed to contain only blank rounds but discharged a lead bullet that struck Hutchins in the chest then lodged in the shoulder of director Joel Souza, 48.
Mitchell’s suit alleges specific wrongdoing by Baldwin, claiming he fired the weapon during the rehearsal “even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of a firearm.”
“Alec Baldwin intentionally, without just cause or excuse, fired the gun towards individuals, including plaintiff, Ms. Hutchins and Mr. Souza, even though protocol was not to do so,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit also claims Baldwin should have assumed the gun was loaded unless “it was demonstrated to him or checked by him” that it was not loaded. The lawsuit also alleges Baldwin “failed to check the gun to see if the firearm was loaded.”
Baldwin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger, saying he pulled the gun’s hammer back and released it before the weapon discharged.
A hearing on the producers’ motion to strike the punitive damages is scheduled May 26 before Judge Michael Whitaker.