LOS ANGELES, CA – 05 Feb, 2016 – SAG* contracts with producers help guarantee safety during stunts – even so, actors continue to be killed and injured during stunts – Vic Morrow and Brandon Lee, who died from on set accidents and many more – such as Harrison Ford – who were injured.
The basics before a stunt are – advance notice to the actor that a stunt is planned, consent from the performer to participate, and a walk through to do as much as possible to uncover the risks and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
During the filming of “Nurse 3D” in Toronto in 2011 – Lionsgate launched a stunt with no warning to the performers, no consent and no walkthrough. Lead actress Paz de la Huerta was struck by a speeding vehicle that raced onto the set.
Was this an accident? The Director, Doug Arniokoski demanded a retake because the actress jumped out of the way just before the truck hit her – minimizing the impact. Arniokoski ordered de la Huerta not to look toward the direction of the oncoming vehicle. After heated discussion, Paz agreed – under significant pressure to avoid being fired from her lead actress job in the major motion picture. At the second take she was hit with tremendous force, being hurled to the ground and suffering a spine fracture as the whole episode was recorded on film.
In a decision mailed today, Judge Gerald Rosenberg found that because the stunt director, Layton Morrison, was a Canadian, he could not be sued for his role in allowing the unscripted stunt to go forward despite the breach of SAG and AMPTP** safety rules.
A California court will have Personal Jurisdiction over a Canadian citizen, if that person has consented to work under California law or if that person was an “agent” of Lionsgate. Lionsgate – based in Santa Monica, California – did not reveal Morrison’s contracts but others all had a “California Law” clause in their contracts.
By using a foreign non-SAG stunt directors in a SAG film, Lionsgate was able to avoid following SAG safety rules even when those violations led to a nearly lethal accident. Lionsgate appeared in Court in Santa Monica on February 2nd to “Quash” service of a summons on Layton Morrison, and Judge Rosenberg agreed. The next major hearing in the case is scheduled for February 23rd at the Santa Monica Courthouse, Dept. K.
Reacting to the decision Paz de la Huerta said: “I’m very concerned about seeing justice done – a studio should not be able to avoid its responsibility for the safety of performers. I’m disappointed by this result and worried about whether an individual actress can actually rely on courts and judges like this to fight a multi-billion dollar studio.”
*SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists)
**AMPTP – Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
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