Jury: Rail­road to pay $3.9M for train death of film worker

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Arail­road owner must pay $3.9 mil­lion to the fam­ily of a movie worker killed on a Ge­or­gia rail­road tres­tle in 2014, a jury de­cided Mon­day in civil ver­dict that found the com­pany shared in the blame for the deadly freight train col­li­sion even though the film crew was tres­pass­ing. The par­ents of Sarah Jones sued CSX Trans­porta­tion in Chatham County State Court, say­ing the rail­road shared blame for their daugh­ter's death. The 27-year-old cam­era as­sis­tant died in the crash Feb. 20, 2014, dur­ing the first day of shoot­ing "Mid­night Rider," an ill-fated movie about Gregg All­man of the All­man Broth­ers Band.

"This trial dis­closed a num­ber of ex­cep­tion­ally poor judg­ments and ig­nored op­por­tu­ni­ties by CSX Trans­porta­tion to pre­vent this tragedy," Jones' par­ents, Richard and El­iz­a­beth Jones of Columbia, South Carolina, said in a writ­ten state­ment. CSX plans to ap­peal the jury's de­ci­sion, said Rob Doolit­tle, a spokesman for the Jack­sonville, Florida-based com­pany. "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," Doolit­tle said.

The film's di­rec­tor, Ran­dall Miller, served a year in jail af­ter plead­ing guilty to in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter and crim­i­nal tres­pass­ing charges. Jones' par­ents said CSX also failed to take pre­cau­tions that could have averted the crash on a tres­tle span­ning the Al­tamaha River near Je­sup in south­east Ge­or­gia. Jones' fam­ily had also sued Miller, his fel­low pro­duc­tion man­agers and sev­eral other de­fen­dants. All of them ex­cept for CSX set­tled or oth­er­wise re­solved their cases out of court. The jury Mon­day found $11.2 mil­lion to be the to­tal value of Jones' life as well as her pain and suf­fer­ing. Jurors de­cided CSX - the only de­fen­dant on trial - bore 35 per­cent of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for Jones' death, mak­ing the rail­road's share $3.9 mil­lion.

Jones was run over

The jury in Sa­van­nah heard tes­ti­mony dur­ing the civil trial that two CSX trains rolled through while the movie crew stood on both sides of the tracks within an hour be­fore the crash, but the oper­a­tors of those trains never called dis­patch­ers to alert them. Jurors also were shown a CSX pol­icy that train oper­a­tors are ex­pected to im­me­di­ately re­port tres­passers on its tracks and rights of way. Jef­frey Har­ris, the Jones fam­ily's at­tor­ney, also noted that the train's brakes weren't ap­plied un­til af­ter the lo­co­mo­tive struck a hos­pi­tal bed the film­mak­ers had placed across the tracks. Ac­tor Wil­liam Hurt, hired to play All­man, had been ly­ing in the bed be­fore the train came upon the crew at 53 mph (85 kph). Hurt es­caped un­harmed. Six crew mem­bers were in­jured by fly­ing shrap­nel from the bed. Jones was run over. 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 in the case. CSX at­tor­neys blamed the crash en­tirely on the film­mak­ers. CSX of­fi­cials had twice sent pro­duc­tion man­agers emails deny­ing them per­mis­sion to shoot on the bridge. Three of Jones' co- work­ers tes­ti­fied that pro­duc­tion man­agers never told the rest of the crew mem­bers, who went onto the rail­road tres­tle un­aware they were tres­pass­ing.—

In a file photo, Richard and El­iz­a­beth Jones, speak with re­porters out­side the Wayne County Court­house, in Je­sup, Ga. — AP

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