Louisiana Judge Allows 'Expendables' Lawsuit Over Jason Statham Injury to Go to Trial

Here's the scenario: A film's lead actor is revealed to have a growth in his throat shortly before production begins on an $80 million movie. Medical experts say he'll likely be fine with antibiotics but there's a possibility the actor will require surgery and need two weeks of vocal rest. Should producers go ahead with production or wait to see whether the antibiotic treatment is effective?

This answer will now be in the hands of a Louisiana jury after a federal judge decided on Tuesday to let Alta Vista Prod., a producer of last year's hit action film The Expendables, proceed with its lawsuit looking to collect more than $1 million in insurance reimbursements. The company made the decision to shut down production for two weeks after doctors discovered a benign growth in actor Jason Statham's throat.

After the condition was discovered, producers had a difficult decision on their hands: Putting everything on a two-week hiatus would cost about $1 million, but going ahead with production and then having to stop mid-stream would cost several million dollars more.

Alta Vista chose to be conservative, only to find that St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company wouldn't pay up. Last July, Alta Vista sued.

In a motion for summary judgment, St. Paul argued that Statham was not prevented from performing, so Alta Vista's shut-down should be deemed "voluntary," which wouldn't be covered under the insurance policy. In response, Alta Vista pointed to another aspect of its policy that required it to "(d)o what is reasonably necessary to protect covered property from further damage."

In other words, Alta Vista believes it was making a proper and required hedge against much larger losses.

Whether that decision was reasonable is an issue of fact for a jury to determine, ruled Louisiana federal judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon on Monday. She denies St. Paul's motion for summary judgment, meaning that a jury will now get to hear all the nuances of producing a Hollywood summer blockbuster.

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner

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