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Just a couple weeks before their new Tom Cruise film comes out in domestic theaters, the producers behind American Made have filed a lawsuit in Georgia federal court over a plane crash during production that killed two individuals.
Cross Creek Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, Quadrant Pictures and Vendian Entertainment are suing S&S Aviation for what happened on Sept. 11, 2015, when, during the making of the film about the C.I.A.-recruited drug runner Barry Seal, a Piper/Smith Aerostar 600 plane crashed in Colombia. Alan Purwin, a helicopter stunt operator, was killed, as was Carlos Berl, an airman. Jimmy Lee Garland, a partner at S&S, was also in the plane and was left without feeling across much of his lower body.
The crash has developed into one huge legal situation, with the estates of Purwin and Garland suing each other and producers while an insurance company has filed its own claims in a separate lawsuit. All the parties are pinning blame or disclaiming responsibility for what happened. The fatal episode has raised serious questions about safety in Hollywood filmmaking.
The various parties have disagreed about who was piloting the plane. Berl’s lawsuit states unequivocally that it was Garland, while Purwin’s suggests it was Berl. Garland also worked as Cruise’s double in the film. Producers wanted the plane in Medellin when it was being shuttled and the crash happened. The families of the dead had previously suggested that a rushed production contributed, while Great American Insurance Company states in its own lawsuit that the aircraft may have been flown illegally without proper certification or license.
Now Cross Creek and the other producers are claiming indemnity against Garland’s company. They allege that S&S was negligent in “failing to properly inspect, repair, maintain and ensure airworthiness of the Subject Aircraft” and “failing to operate the Subject Aircraft in a safe manner, including, but not limited to, failure to provide adequate pre-flight preparation, briefing, instruction, training and supervision to the pilot in command.”
The next development may come on Sept. 29 when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge holds a summary judgment hearing in Purwin’s lawsuit. That happens to also be the same day that American Made will be released in U.S. theaters.