The Legal Fallout of the Alec Baldwin Rust Movie Set Injuries

By now, most of the world knows about the shooting by Alec Baldwin of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Sousa in October of 2021. As a result of a prop gun being loaded with live ammunition, Hutchins died and Sousa was severely injured. While this may or may not rise to the level of criminal negligence, there is almost certainly a civil lawsuit against Alex Baldwin and the various entities involved in the movie set production. What are the potential personal injury avenues both the estate of Hutchins and Sousa can consider? Here’s an overview by the personal injury lawyers at Sawan & Sawan. 

New Mexico Workers Compensation

Initially, unless the contract signed by all parties required application of another state law, the incident occurred on a movie set in New Mexico. As in most states, New Mexico has worker’s compensation available for injured workers. Under worker’s compensation, a person injured on the job is entitled to benefits regardless of fault. In some states, there are limits as to how much a person can recover. In addition, the employer is immune from any additional personal injury claims. Most states provide statutes that immunity is not limitless. If the employer was substantially sure that by its conduct, injury would occur, then a workplace intentional tort claim could be allowed. That claim would be in addition to the workers compensation claim.

Insurance Coverage

To pursue other claims, both the estate and Sousa would have to consider insurance coverage for the shooting. The act of shooting the gun by Mr Baldwin, is an intentional act. Generally, intentional acts are not covered under an insurance policy. The claims would have to center around negligent conduct. Negligence is defined as a failure to exercise due care for another person.

Is Alec Baldwin Liable for the Rust Movie Shooting?

Whether or not Alec Baldwin is civilly liable depends on whether it can be established that he was negligent. This would involve an analysis of whether he had a duty that was breached by his actions in handling the prop weapon. The facts indicate that Baldwin did not know the gun was loaded, establishing negligent firing of the weapon. The estate and Sousa could also establish negligence claims against the crew member who inspected the gun, the armorer who was responsible for weapon safety, the assistant director who handed the gun to Baldwin, and other personnel in the production company. The gun had previously been checked by the armorer and the assistant director who both declared the gun safe. Negligent hiring and supervision could be additional claims. Although Baldwin may not be personally charged civilly, he could be held liable as part of the production team. There was a large amount of live ammunition on the set as well as prior incidences involving guns. Additional entities could include the manufacturer of the gun and the movie company.

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Dennis P. Sawan

Partner
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Christopher A. Sawan

Partner

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