By now we have learned a lot more about the tragic shooting death of Halyna Hutchins. The cinematographer was shot dead by actor and producer Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie ‘Rust.’ The accidental shooting occurred when he fired a prop gun that held live ammo.

The nature of the occurrence as an accident is not being questioned. There is no indication of any motive for anyone on set to purposefully cause the shooting. However, the degree of negligence involved is under scrutiny. Much of the information that has emerged has created more questions.

These questions are going to inevitably be part of the legal battle Hutchins’ family goes through to get rightfully compensated for her death. A wrongful death lawsuit is likely to result in a payout of millions of dollars, and the details will impact the settlement.

Let’s first take a look at the insurance policy that covers what film executives presumably considered enough in case of injury or death.

‘Rust’ Liability Cover

The insurance policy obtained by TMZ that was taken out for the set of ‘Rust’ limits general liability cover to $1 million per incident. However, there is also a commercial umbrella policy for another $5 million. The umbrella policy is a supplement to the general liability coverage.

In other words, all in all, the insurance company will pay out no more than $6 million. As we will discuss, this is likely to be woefully inadequate. In addition, there is doubt that the insurance company will pay at all.

The negligence that led to the shooting was immense. There are a number of factors that make the shooting more than a tragic accident. The fact that a real gun was being used is the first red flag. Then there is the matter that it did not contain a blank as originally reported but live ammunition. In fact, members of the crew reportedly used the gun for “shooting practice” before the incident.

But poor safety practices, no matter how negligent, are not what tells us most about this incident. Rather, there is the news that members of the crew had walked off set in protest of poor security practices mere hours prior to the incident. One of their complaints reportedly had to do with an incident in which Alec Baldwin’s stunt double fired two live rounds from a gun he had been told had no ammunition.

That these complaints were not taken seriously and a deadly shooting that occurred in the wake of these warnings leaves the production company and team with a lot to answer for. The writing was on the wall and yet no effort seems to have been made to change on-set practices.

Chubb National has been named as the insurance company with whom the ‘Rust’ production company has their policy. It remains to be seen whether they will agree to pay out anything for the death of Hutchins or the injury of director Joul Souza.

Actual Cost

The insurance policy covers $6 million at most, but Hutchins’s family are likely to receive far more if they bring litigation for wrongful death. This is for a number of reasons. One is the fact that Hutchins was a “rising star” with decades of potential earnings ahead of her. Another is the fact that she was a wife and mother. Her family can sue for loss of affection.

But what could take the settlement far beyond expected is the potential for the judge to award punitive damages. In New Mexico, where ‘Rust’ was being shot, punitive damages can be awarded if there’s proof of recklessness or wanton misconduct. It is not too much of a stretch to believe that recklessness will be fairly easy to prove.

Even though there was clearly a fair amount of negligence in play, it is unlikely that criminal charges will be brought against Baldwin or anyone else.

Further Losses

The losses incurred by the team behind ‘Rust’ will likely go beyond the legal fallout of the shooting itself. While an incident like this does not have to mean the end of production, there is no doubt it will taint the movie’s reputation. It seems unlikely that the ‘Rust’ movie will get a positive reception if it is ever released, as it will always be accompanied by the memory of the shooting.

This may mean that the entire budget already sunk into the movie is lost, and this could amount to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Depending on the conditions of the contracts of actors and crew, they may need to pay out millions more just to shut down production, or face more legal challenges for loss of income.

All in all, this is set to be a very expensive accident, even if the amounts awarded are on the lowest end of the potential spectrum.

Final Cost

It is impossible to say exactly what will be the final cost. The insurance company won’t pay more than $6 million, and it may even refuse to pay that figure. Even if it does pay, the production company behind ‘Rust’ will likely end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars on payouts, along with having potentially lost any budget already sunk into production.

All of this could have been avoided if the complaints of crew members had been taken seriously. Most importantly, a person’s life would not have been lost.


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