'Midnight Rider' Case: Settlement Reached in Sarah Jones' Parents' Civil Lawsuit
Richard and Elizabeth Jones have reached confidential agreements with some of the defendants
The parents of Sarah Jones, the camera assistant who was struck and killed by a train on the Midnight Rider film set, have reached a confidential settlement agreement with several of the defendants in their civil lawsuit, family attorney Jeff Harris announced Wednesday.
In May, Jones' parents filed a wrongful death suit against several individuals and organizations affiliated with the Gregg Allman biopic, including the producers and director Randall Miller.
A settlement has been reached with Miller; producer Jody Savin; executive producers Jay Sedrish and Don Mandrik; location manager Charles Baxter; Miller's production company Unclaimed Freight; first assistant director Hillary Schwartz; director of photography Mike Ozier; Epozier Films, Inc.; and Rayonier Performance Fibers, the paper company that owns the land around the train tracks where Midnight Rider was filming when a train struck and killed Jones.
CSX Transportation, which operates the railroad tracks, remains in the suit as does Meddin Studios, which provided production and filming equipment and personnel, and executive producer Jeffrey N. Gant.
“Richard and Elizabeth Jones’ objectives in filing this lawsuit, after the death of their 27-year-old daughter, Sarah, have been clear and unwavering,” Harris said in a statement. “To find out what happened on the day of their daughter’s death, determine who was responsible, hold those who made bad decisions accountable and ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again on another film set. Today, we are another step closer to fully achieving those objectives.”
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Richard Jones added, “Elizabeth and I are dedicated to ensuring that our daughter’s death is not in vain, and through our work with the Sarah Jones Film Foundation we continue to advocate for safer film sets — keeping safety always at the forefront, never again an afterthought. Safety for Sarah.”
The suit originally listed Allman, executive producer Michael Lehman and Midnight Rider's distributor Open Road Films as defendants, but they were all dropped from the case in October.
The suit argued that the "Defendants' negligence actually and proximately caused Sarah's injuries and death, rendering Defendants liable to Plaintiffs' for Sarah's injuries, pain and suffering, the value of her life, and all other elements of damages allowed under the laws of the State of Georgia."
Jones' parents were seeking "general and specific damages in amount to be determined by jury," according to the complaint. The suit also argued that Jones' parents are entitled to punitive damages because the defendants "showed willful misconduct, wantonness, oppression or that entire want of care which raises the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences."
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter after they filed suit, Jones' parents said they were looking for answers and changes in the film industry, echoing many of the comments Richard Jones and Harris made on Wednesday.
"We don't want our daughter's death to be in vain," Richard Jones said in May. "We don't want this to happen again. That's kind of the bottom line. What needs to happen to make sure that's the case?"
Via subpoenas, document requests and other aspects of a legal investigation, Harris added that he hoped to "get through a lot of this smoke and find out who made the decisions that resulted in Sarah's death."
Miller, Savin, Sedrish and Schwartz are still facing involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass charges in a case that's set to go to trial on March 9, 2015. Following Jones' parents' lawsuit, other civil lawsuits were filed against Miller, Savin, Sedrish and other individuals and entities associated with the film by hairdresser Joyce Gilliard and makeup artist Antonyia Verna. Production on the film has been suspended, with star William Hurt, who was on set when Jones was killed, pulling out of the project.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison under Georgia law; criminal trespass is a misdemeanor and carries a potential sentence of 12 months.