A judge has ruled 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” can seek punitive damages from some of the producers who sought to have the damages stricken.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Whitaker heard arguments Thursday and ruled in favor of plaintiff Mamie Mitchell and against defendants Rust Movie Productions LLC, Thomasville Pictures LLC, Ryan Smith and Langley Cheney.
“For pleading purposes, the court finds the first amended complaint alleges facts sufficient to establish despicable conduct carried out by moving defendants with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others,” Whitaker wrote.
The judge also noted that Mitchell’s lawyers alleged the four defendants “intentionally undertook a low-budget and cost-cutting scheme that was known to create unsafe conditions for movie production crews that resulted in moving defendants’ failure to ensure basic safety protocols with respect to the hazardous use of firearms.”
In their court papers, Mitchell’s attorneys alleged the producers “intentionally failed to hire experienced crew members to manage and handle the numerous weapons that were to be used in the film.”
Days before the shooting, a camera operator had reported two unexpected gun discharges during a rehearsal in a cabin, Mitchell’s attorneys further argued.
“This is super unsafe,” the camera operator wrote in a text message to the production manager, according to Mitchell’s lawyers.
In their court papers urging dismissal of the punitive damages claim against their clients, attorneys for the producers named in the motion argued 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 argued 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 last Oct. 21 while Baldwin, himself a producer and a star of “Rust,” was helping to prepare camera angles for a scene on the film’s set near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Baldwin 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.
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.”
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.