Chatham County Superior Court Jury awards $11.2 million in Damages


August 04, 2017

A Chatham County superior court jury awarded $11.2 million in damages to the parents of a young woman killed on a Georgia movie set. The woman killed was 27 years-of-age. She and other production crew members were situated on a train trestle when a train sped down the tracks. The production crew was setting up to take a shot. They did not have permission to be on the trestle at the time of the accident which occurred in February of 2014.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionthe director of the movie faced criminal charges. The director agreed to serve two years in jail, probation for eight years, and to pay a $20,000 fine on charges of involuntary manslaughter and trespassing. The plea deal served to insulate the director's wife, who is also the director's business partner, from criminal and civil liability.  

The deceased woman's parents, as representatives of their daughter's estate, filed a wrongful death law suit in May of 2014. CSX Transportation, Inc., who owns the tracks, defended the allegations along with other individuals and businesses associated with the movie production. Many of the defendants settled with the plaintiffs prior to trial. CSX did not.

After the trial, the jury's verdict awarded the plaintiffs $1,992,083.00 for their daughter's conscious pain and suffering and $9,229,416.00 for the full value of her life. Additionally, the jury was asked to apportion fault among several entities. Thus, they allocated liability for the accident among CSX, the directors, and other movie employees. Under Georgia law, the total amount of fault apportioned among joint tortfeasors must equal 100%. In disputed liability situations, the plaintiff's own liability can also be evaluated. Also under Georgia law, the jury must enter a verdict for the defendant if the jury finds the plaintiff or, in wrongful death claims, his/her decedent 50% or more at fault for the incident. 

According to the verdict slip, a photo of which was reproduced in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the jury exonerated the deceased from any wrongdoing or contributing to her death in any way.  According to the verdict, CSX was 35% at fault as the owner of the railroad on which the deadly crash occurred. A fabric vendor was found to be 18% at fault by the jury. Additionally, the jury found the director and his wife 35% at fault. The jury also found that two other movie employees were a combined 12% at fault. 

Unfortunately, the verdict will not bring their daughter back and no sum, no matter how high, can replace their daughter. Hopefully, however, the parents can now experience some closure knowing that justice was served.

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