A cinematographer died on the set of the upcoming movie “Rust” when a prop gun discharged. The grieving family settled the suit with the production almost a year after the death of the cinematographer.
Let’s go over the details of the news with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.
On October 21, 2021, a 42-year-old Ukrainian cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was working on the set of Rust, an upcoming American Western film written and directed by Joel Souza, starring lead actor Alec Baldwin. She died after the actor discharged a Pietta .45 Colt revolver used as a prop gun.
The gun fatally wounded Hutchins, who was immediately moved to the University of New Mexico Hospital. She died that day, leaving behind her husband, Matthew Hutchins, and her 10-year-old son with a wrongful death lawsuit. Local newspapers reported Baldwin in tears outside Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. But it was his ultimate decision to use the loaded gun in the film Rust. The fact the case settled privately underscores that other defendants, including Alec Baldwin, still face potential murder charges for significant breaches of safety by Baldwin and the production company. We have yet to see how the attribution of blame will be apportioned, if any, among the original principal players, stagehands and others.
On February 15, 2022, the Hutchins family sued the production company, alleging 15 violations of industry standards on the film set in New Mexico. The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Matthew Hutchins stated that the armorer was not present when Alec Baldwin received the prop gun from assistant director Dave Halls.
The lawsuit alleged that the production team was working on a shoestring budget and cutting corners, eventually plaguing the production with safety issues. Before Hutchins’s death, there were two other misfires, with Baldwin’s stunt double firing a blank accidentally, and another incident involved the prop master shooting themselves in the foot. So it looks like a complete mess with a lot of people failing to be responsible when it comes to gun safety. And of course, Baldwin is known as an anti-Second Amendment, Hollywood liberal to boot.
On October 5, 2022, the family settled the lawsuit, subject to court approval, with the production company with an undisclosed amount and a deal whereby Matthew Hutchins would be the movie’s executive producer, according to Rust Movie Production LLC head Melina Spadone.
In a statement, Matthew stated that he had no intentions of blaming anyone for the death of Halyna Hutchins and that they all would work together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work as he continues to heal.
Although the settlement is still subject to New Mexico court approval, “The filming of Rust, which I will now executive produce, will resume with all the original principal players on board, in January 2023″… “I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame [against the producers or Mr. Baldwin] All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work,” Widower Matthew Hutchins said.
Alec Baldwin spoke following the settlement. He denied any wrongdoing and stated that after the tragic incident, everyone made sure what they did was in the best interests of Halyna’s son. Director, Joel Souza said that he is still healing from the incident and his decision to return to the set would not be possible without Matthew and their family’s involvement.
He further added that all the effort on this filming of Rust would go towards honoring Halyna’s legacy. Baldwin will continue celebrating Halyna’s life, and the film will be devoted to the exceedingly talented actress who was shot. So Baldwin will pull the trigger, finish directing the film with the other producers, and wait to see if anyone else will face criminal charges over the live-round shooting.
In April 2022, the New Mexico Safety Bureau found the production company violating several safety standards on the set of Rust, including the introduction of live ammunition and inadequate safety training of the crew.
Under the state law’s maximum allowable fine, the production company faced $136,793 in penalties for the violations. Despite citations, fines, injuries, and Halyna’s death, the production company has planned to continue the bittersweet filming in January 2023.
Even after the Hutchins family settled the lawsuit, the Santa Fe County District Attorney’s Office is still considering whether to press charges. The attorney statement read that they will not hesitate to file criminal charges if the evidence warrants criminal charges. Attorney Brian Panish must be happy, and we hope the court approves everything for him.
Although incidents like Haylna’s are rare, they can happen, which is why using firearms on set is subject to stringent safety standards. In 1993, Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, died from a prop gun with a dummy round.
In the incident “Halyna Hutchins family settles wrongful death suit,” the Rust movie productions were negligent and violated several standards resulting in grounds for a wrongful death suit. If you lost someone due to another’s negligence, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation about a potential wrongful death lawsuit. You may qualify for compensation. We may be able to reach a settlement.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.