Breaking News
Black Friday SALE: Up to 54% off InvestingPro! Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Explainer - Who faces legal liability in 'Rust' shooting case?

Sports & GeneralOct 28, 2021 12:56AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins is seen in this undated handout photo received by Reuters on October 23, 2021. Mandatory credit SWEN STUDIOS/Handout via REUTERS.

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - Lawsuits seeking to assign civil liability in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins would be most likely to name the "Rust" crew member who inspected the gun, the assistant director who handed it to actor Alec Baldwin and possibly others in the production company, experts said on Wednesday.

New Mexico authorities have not ruled out criminal charges in the case. While rehearsing a scene on the movie set, Baldwin accidentally fired a gun that he had been told was safe. The shot killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

COULD THERE BE CRIMINAL CHARGES?

Experts said criminal charges are possible, though likely not against Baldwin.

"For a criminal case, you're going to need some sort of actual intent, or criminal negligence, gross negligence. That's ... something more than pointing the gun," said former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani in Los Angeles.

The criminal investigation will likely focus instead on how the gun came to be loaded. "I think having live ballistic rounds on a movie set is inexcusable and rises to the level of gross negligence that you see in a criminal charge," said lawyer Jeff Harris of Harris Lowry Manton.

WHAT COULD THE GROUNDS FOR LAWSUITS BE?

Hutchins' family and Souza could file civil lawsuits for financial damages, legal experts said.

These lawsuits would most likely argue negligence, legally defined as a failure to exercise a reasonable level of care.

Such claims got a boost from the revelation by Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza on Wednesday that the gun handed to Baldwin contained a live round despite having been inspected and declared safe by two people, armorer Hannah Gutierrez and assistant director David Halls, and that other live rounds were found on the set.

"It's pretty obvious; somebody had to be negligent," said University of Southern California law professor Gregory Keating.

WHO COULD BE SUED?

Harris, who represented the family of a stuntman on AMC's "The Walking Dead" in a wrongful death case, said both Gutierrez and Halls could be sued. Bryan Sullivan of Early Sullivan, a Los Angeles entertainment attorney, agreed.

Harris said the "Rust" production company, people in supervisory roles and people involved in hiring decisions could also be targeted.

Allocating liability could take years of litigation. The outcome would determine who might have to pay financial damages and how much.

"It's very common to have multiple defendants whose negligence intermingles with each other," Harris said.

Baldwin probably will not be held civilly liable for firing the gun after being told it was safe. However, he could face liability as one of the film's producers, said Sullivan.

A court "would look at who had ultimate authority to ensure the safety of the set," he said.

WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES TO DAMAGE CLAIMS?

Defendants in a civil lawsuit would likely argue the shooting was a workplace accident, meaning that the victims could only seek payment through workers' compensation insurance.

However, University of New Mexico School of Law professor Sonia Gipson Rankin said the victims could seek to prove that defendants had ignored safety concerns in the past and were knowingly acting in a dangerous way.

If successful, the victims might be able to seek damages in court, rather than through workers' compensation.

Explainer - Who faces legal liability in 'Rust' shooting case?
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email