On February 20, 2014, second assistant camerawoman Sarah Jones and the film crew of Midnight Rider, an upcoming indie film, were setting up equipment on a narrow trestle. The scene was set to be shot on live train tracks in Wayne County, Georgia, and the crew had been told that in the event that a train appeared, they would have 60 seconds to clear the tracks.
Later that day, a train did come barreling down the tracks—and tragically, 60 seconds was not enough time for Sarah Jones and several other members of the film crew to escape. As the industry mourns, multiple investigations are looking into the case in an attempt to determine who is to blame for this horrific accident.
A partner in the Los Angeles branch of Washington’s Arent Fox, LLP law firm, Richard Charnley, believes that this accident points to the need for stricter safety measures on both television and movie sets—especially those outside of Los Angeles.
According to Charnley, there is typically a designated set of safety observers on the set; outside of Hollywood proper, many film production companies use local union help. While Ms. Jones was certainly an accomplished camerawoman, many union workers are often unaware of the rules and standards set in place for the protection of the cast and crew.
More troubling, however, was the fact that there seemed to be no real arrangement with the train company prior to filming. A representative from CSX, the train company that owns the tracks, stated that the production had actually been denied permission to shoot on location. (However, later reports suggest that this issue might be a little more convoluted than it seems.)
Mary Katz, a producer and manager with nearly 40 years of experience, noted that the production company in charge of Midnight Rider should have had clear, written location agreements signed by the supervisors of the railroad—something that seems to be nonexistent thus far.
Sarah Jones’ family has publicly announced that they plan to sue the producers of Midnight Rider. Since Ms. Jones was in all likelihood a union employee covered by workers’ compensation statutes, attorney Richard Charnley says that they may very well have a case.
If you or a loved one has been injured at work, please contact Atlanta workers’ comp attorney Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432.