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Georgia jury awards $11.2 million for wrongful death on movie set

The family of a crew member who died while working on the 2014 biopic about Gregg Allman has just been awarded a total of $11.2 million by a Chatham County jury. The unanimous jury award came after a six-day trial. The filmmaker, first assistant director and unit production manager had already settled with the family.

The crew member was killed in 2014 when a moving train came through the area that had been staged for the film, which was never completed. Props and equipment had been set up on a railroad bridge and trestle just south of Savannah, and the train struck the materials and, tragically, the worker.

The owner of the tracks and the operator of the railroad, CSX Corp., continues to deny liability for the accident. According to Reuters, the company pointed out in its defense that the production company never secured a permit to use the tracks.

The filmmaker pled guilty to trespassing and involuntary manslaughter in 2015 and was sentenced to two years in jail and eight years of probation. He served about a year. He was also fined $20,000. Criminal charges against the filmmaker's wife and business partner were dropped.

The $11.2 million jury award was broken down as follows:

  • $3.9 million from CSX Corp.
  • $3.14 million from the filmmaker
  • $785,000 from the filmmaker's wife/business partner
  • $785,000 from the film's first assistant director
  • $561,000 from the executive producer/unit production manager
  • $2 million from the company that owned the land upon which the tracks were located

A spokesman for CSX Corp. said, ""CSX is deeply sympathetic to the terrible loss suffered by the family ... but respectfully disagrees with the conclusions reached by the jury," The railroad will appeal the verdict.

As is the case for many families who go through the wrongful loss of a loved one, the family of this worker appears to have wanted answers more than anything. They have set up a nonprofit group called "Safety for Sarah" that will promote safety on movie sets.

In a statement, they said, "That search has now come to a close."

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