The family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died as a result of an on-set shooting of the now suspended Western movie, Rust, filed a lawsuit today against Alec Baldwin and others involved with the feature. The late filmmaker’s family is alleging in the lawsuit that reckless behavior and cost-cutting led to her death, Variety is reporting.
Hutchins was shot and killed on October 21 while preparing for one of the drama’s scene at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Baldwin, who was serving as the lead actor and a producer on the Western, was holding the gun when it fired. Since the incident occurred, the Emmy Award-winning actor has claimed that he didn’t pull the trigger, and the cinematographer’s resulting death was an accident.
During the incident, Hutchins was shot through the torso. The bullet then lodged in the shoulder of Rust‘s writer-director, Joel Souza, who subsequently recovered from his injury.
After the incident, the cinematographer was airlifted to a hospital in Albuquerque, where she died. She left behind her husband, Matthew Hutchins, and their 9-year-old son.
“He [Matthew] lost his long-term wife who was the love of his life, and his son lost a mother,: said Brian Panish, who represents Hutchins’ estate, at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. “It never should have happened.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in New Mexico, cites text messages and emails sent by Lane Luper, the camera assistant who raised concerns about accidental discharges on the movie’s set. After sending the messages, Luper subsequently left the production with several other crew members just before Hutchins’ death.
The Hutchins family’s lawsuit also alleges that Baldwin violated numerous rules for the safe handling of firearms. It also suggests that the SAG Award-winning actor committed reckless discharge of a deadly weapon, which is a criminal offense in the State of New Mexico. Baldwin has said he doesn’t expect to face criminal charges, although the local prosecutor hasn’t yet ruled out that possibility.
Randi McGinn, the estate’s attorney in Albuquerque, said she expected the lawsuit would go to trial within a year and a half to two years. She noted that timeline is relatively fast for such a case.
“In New Mexico, we’re used to people coming in from out of town to play cowboy who don’t know how to use guns,” McGinn said. “You don’t hand somebody a gun until you’ve given them safety training… No one should ever die with a real gun on a make-believe movie set.”
In addition to Baldwin, the lawsuit names seven other of the film’s producers as defendants, including Ryan Smith, Allen Cheney, Nathan Klingher, Ryan Winterstern, Anjul Nigam, Matthew DelPiano and Emily Salveson. Several other crew members were also named as defendants, including Sarah Zachry, Dave Halls, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, Gabrielle Pickle and Seth Kenney.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating the incident, and is focusing on determining how a live round made it onto the set. Search warrants have revealed that Rust‘s armorer, Reed Gutierrez, loaded the Colt .45 with what she believed were dummy rounds.
Gutierrez then gave the gun to Halls, who served as the drama’s first assistant director. He proclaimed that it was a “cold gun,” meaning that it wasn’t loaded with any live rounds, before handing it to Baldwin.
Three other crew members have also filed lawsuits of their own, including Mamie Mitchell, the script supervisor; Serge Svetnoy, the gaffer; and Cherlyn Schaefer, the key medic. Gutierrez has also sued Kenney, who supplied ammunition to the set, alleging that he mixed live and dummy ammunition. The production had a liability policy with a limit of $6 million.
In response to Mitchell’s suit, the producers, including Baldwin, have argued that the case should be thrown out. They noted that the case involves a workplace accident, which should instead be handled through the state workers compensation system.
Aaron Dyer, the attorney who’s representing Baldwin and the Western’s other producers, issued a statement in response to the law suit. “Everyone’s hearts and thoughts remain with Halyna’s family as they continue to process this unspeakable tragedy,” he said. “We continue to cooperate with the authorities to determine how live ammunition arrived on the Rust set in the first place.
“Any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false. He, Halyna and the rest of the crew relied on the statement by the two professionals responsible for checking the gun that it was a “cold gun” – meaning there is no possibility of a discharge, blank or otherwise,” Dyer continued.
“This protocol has worked on thousands of films, with millions of discharges… Actors should be able to rely on armorers and prop department professionals, as well as assistant directors, rather than deciding on their own when a gun is safe to use,” the attorney added.