The parents of Sarah Jones recently won a major lawsuit against railroad company CSX.
In 2014, Sarah Jones was tragically killed after the director of Midnight Rider instructed his crew to film on a railroad bridge in Wayne County. While some of the crew were on a trestle to film the scene, a train came down at nearly 60 mph blaring its horn for 33 seconds before colliding with seven people working on the film. The director has served jail time for trespassing onto the railroad bridge, and it was argued by the Jones' attorney that the crew was unaware they were not permitted to enter the area.
The director, Randall Miller, served one year in jail as a result to his guilty plea for involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. After seeking justice from those responsible from the production team, the parents turned to the railroad in a lawsuit claiming they could have done more to prevent such an incident.
CSX's attorneys insisted the collision was not the company's fault, and that they were not responsible for the incident as they had denied permission for access to the director twice. However the Jones' lawyer argued that since multiple CSX trains had passed by where the crew were earlier in the day, that they should have been aware of the crew being there and informed others to prevent any incidents.
"Despite the fact that multiple CSX trains passed the Midnight Rider cast and crew on February 20, with those individuals in view of the trains' operators, no warning was given to the subsequent train that ultimately caused Sarah's death," the lawsuit says. The railroad workers say they were not legally obligated to report them, and did not assume they would put themselves in danger as they did. CSX's request to have the case dropped before trial was denied by Chatham County State Court Judge Gregory Sapp, who says the jury would be charged with deciding "whether the trespassers were anticipated or discovered."
The jury Monday found $11.2 million to be the total value of Jones' life as well as her pain and suffering. Additionally, the jury found that CSX was primarily liable for the accident and should pay 35% of the total judgment, totally $3.9 million. “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,” CSX said in statement. The jury decided that about $2 million should be received for pain and suffering, and another $9.2 million for economic losses. “Elizabeth and I have spent the last 3 plus years wanting to understand how our daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Jones, tragically lost her life,” Richard and Elizabeth Jones stated.
The parents mentioned that they wanted this lawsuit to bring awareness to preventing incidents during production. To shed light on the safety issues of sets and filming. The recent Georgia death of the stuntman working on AMC's The Walking Dead reminds us that these incidents are possible in such a booming film hub.
The film Midnight Rider was intended to be about the life of Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band, but production halted after the tragic incident. Gregg Allman later sued the film’s producers as well, saying they had lost the rights to tell his story after the young woman's death, before settling out of court.