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U.K.-based stunt performer Olivia Jackson — who suffered life-changing injuries following an accident while shooting 2016’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter — has won a legal case in South Africa against a company involved in the film.
While standing in for Milla Jovovich during the 2015 shoot in Cape Town and riding a motorcycle at high speed, Jackson collided with a crane-mounted camera vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. She would spend 17 days in a coma, with her left arm having to be amputated above the elbow. She was also left with a twisted spine, paralysis of the top left quarter of her body including her neck, a dislocated shoulder, a severed thumb, punctured lungs and broken ribs, and still suffers lasting nerve damage and facial scarring.
A court in South Africa has now found in favor of Jackson, ruling that the stunt was negligently planned and executed by the local company, Bickers Actions SA, that had been operating the camera and filming vehicle. The judge also dismissed the allegation by the defendants — Gustav Marais and Roland Melville — that Jackson’s motorbike riding was at fault. Alongside Bickers Action SA, the stunt coordinator was Grant Hulley of Pyranha Stunts. Both companies had been engaged on the film by Davis Films/Impact Pictures.
According to the judge, Jackson, as a stunt performer, had not voluntarily assumed the risk of the accident, and she was unaware that director Paul W.S. Anderson had given the uninsured driver, Melville, instructions to decrease the safety margin from the rehearsal run to the incident run in order to get a more exciting shot.
“I miss my old face. I miss my old body. I miss my old life. At least I now finally have a court judgment that proves this stunt was badly planned and that it was not my fault,” said Jackson of the ruling.
“Action movies that require people to carry out dangerous stunts should always be very carefully planned and performed. They should also be backed by insurance that can meet the very significant life-long losses that could be incurred by any member of the cast and crew who is seriously injured,” said Julian Chamberlayne, partner at Stewarts and global counsel for Jackson. “This judgment is an important recognition that stunt performers are not themselves inherently responsible, nor willing but disposable volunteers when something goes wrong. Like all workers they are owed a duty of care by those responsible for the safest possible performance of the stunt.”
Jackson initially filed a lawsuit in the U.S. last September in Los Angeles, alleging that Resident Evil director Anderson and his longtime producing partner, Jeremy Bolt, were responsible, and requested unspecified damages. The defendants then filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that Jackson’s “American lawyers are suing the wrong people in the wrong place.” The suit was dismissed in November.
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