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Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell is dropping some claims in her lawsuit against the producers of the movie over the on-set shooting that resulted in the death and injury of two crew members.
Mitchell said she will withdraw causes of action for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, leaving a sole claim for negligence. Under New Mexico labor law, workers advancing a claim for negligence against their employer are limited to worker’s compensation. Rust Movie Productions, however, stated in its appeal to a fine issued by New Mexico’s safety agency that it wasn’t the employer responsible for supervising the film set. Mitchell is looking to hold the Rust producer to that position, which opens up damages for negligence in civil court.
“Plaintiff pleaded the alternative accessory theory of liability against defendant Rust Movie Productions in anticipation that it would argue in the instant case that it was Plaintiff Mitchell’s employer and that, as such, the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy would bar Plaintiff’s recovery for damages in this matter as to her negligence cause of action,” writes John Carpenter, representing Mitchell, in a motion opposing demurrer filed on Wednesday. “In light of statements that it is not an employer related to the Rust filming, Plaintiff agrees to withdraw her intentional tort cause of actions.”
In November, Mitchell sued Alec Baldwin and other Rust producers after a loaded gun was fired on set, killing director photography Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. Among the defenses Rust Movie Productions advanced was that Mitchell’s workplace injury claim is barred by New Mexico law. As Mitchell’s employer, it claimed her “exclusive remedy for a job-related injury is workers’ compensation, not those provided by civil court.”
Rust Movie Production’s position on whether it was an employer for the movie changed when New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau in April issued the highest level citation and maximum fine allowable by state law of $136,793 for numerous violations of safety protocols. Contesting the findings, the company argued it wasn’t responsible for supervising the film set. “The law properly permits producers to delegate such critical functions as firearm safety to experts in that field and does not place such responsibility on producers whose expertise is in arranging financing and contracting for the logistics of filming,” the filing reads.
Pointing to Rust Movie Production’s change-of-heart on the issue, Mitchell indicated she’d drop claims for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotion distress to pursue a claim for negligence “in the interests of streamlining the pleadings in the instant matter.”
“Plaintiff will agree to withdraw her intentional tort causes of action against defendant Rust Movie Productions in reliance that it will not argue in this case that it is an employer in contravention of its statements before New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission,” writes Carpenter.
A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Sept. 14. Attorneys representing Mitchell and Rust Movie Productions didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
In July, L.A. Superior Court Judge Michael Whitaker dismissed claims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Rust producer Anjul Nigam and his loan-out corporation, Brittany House Pictures, because the firing of the gun was “unexpected.” He found that Nigam can’t be liable for those claims since Mitchell didn’t allege facts sufficient to support them against Baldwin. If the actor didn’t assault Mitchell, then neither did Nigam, the judge concluded.
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