The family of the Sarah Jones, a camera assistant killed while working on the Gregg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider,” was awarded $11.2 million Monday in a civil suit over her death. Jurors determined that railways company CSX Transportation bore the largest part of the responsibility.
Jones, 27, was killed in 2014 during the filming of a dream sequence in which William Hurt, playing Allman, occupied a hospital bed on a live railroad trestle above the Altamaha River near Doctortown, Georgia. Director Randall Miller served a year in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing.
The case led to the Safety for Sarah movement, which called for greater safety precautions during productions.
The jury unanimously awarded Jones’ family $1,992,083 for pain and suffering, and $9,229,416 for the full value of Sarah’s life. They assigned 35 percent of the fault to CSX, 28 percent to Miller and 18 percent to Rayonier Performance Fibers, which owns the property around the tracks. The rest was divided among members of production company Film Allman.
“CSX is deeply sympathetic to the terrible loss suffered by the family of Ms. Sarah Jones, but respectfully disagrees with the conclusions reached by the jury today and will appeal,” said Rob Doolittle, a spokesman at the Jacksonville, Florida-based company.
Sarah’s parents, Elizabeth and Richard Jones, said in a statement that she was “a bright beacon of hope that was snuffed out too soon.”
“We felt that this trial was necessary in order to learn what happened that tragic day of Feb. 20, 2014. It is only with the discovery of what could have been done differently that we might avoid another similar tragic loss of life.
They added: “We have learned much from this trial. No doubt that the decisions made by those in charge of Film Allman, LLC were foolish, criminal and, in our view, selfish. That said, this trial disclosed a number of exceptionally poor judgements and ignored opportunities by CSX Transportation to prevent this tragedy. Frankly, I believe that the evidence in this trial indicated that CSX has systemic issues that need corrected.”
“We miss you Sarah,” their statement concluded.
Attorneys for Jones’ family argued that CSX should have taken precautions to avoid the crash, and said two CSX trains that passed the movie crew before the collision should have reported the group.
Hurt appeared in Savannah and sat outside the courtroom during the trial’s first day last week. But the actor was never called to testify.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.