Rock star Gregg Allman was recently filming a movie about his life after a film crew member, Sarah Elizabeth Jones, age 27, died, and several other film crew members were injured on the set. The set was taking place on a train track and rail way trestle owned by Rayonier Performance Fibers, who gave permission to use the property. The owner of the railroad, CSX Transportation, Inc., did not, however, give permission and the complaint brought by the Plaintiff’s allege that the film crew was never aware of this fact.
There were supposed to be two (2) trains that passed per day on the railroad. On the day of Ms. Jones’ death, the film crew waited for two (2) trains to pass and then set up their equipment on the set which was the railroad track. Then a third, unexpected, train approached and gave the crew no way to exit the track in time before the train collided with the set. The debris that went flying from the collision caused the death of Ms. Jones.
The parents of Ms. Jones’ subsequently brought a case for the wrongful death of their young daughter alleging that the Defendants, Allman and CSX, were negligent in filming on a dangerous site and failed to take proper safety measures to watch for trains. The Plaintiff’s are seeking compensation for the wrongful death of their daughter, and also seeking attorney’s fees and punitive damages. The case is Jones v. Film Allman, No. STCV1400752.
This case is exactly the type of case where a jury will decide the value of Ms. Jones’ life, and whether or not the Defendants’ conduct rises to the level of punitive conduct. So far it has been stated that, “Every witness has talked about how fantastic she was. She was beloved by everybody who worked on the movie.” As I have discussed in my website about the determination of damages in wrongful death cases, to determine the value of a life in a wrongful death case the finder of fact, in this case the jury, does not just look into the economic value of a life, the jury will also look at what the deceased is missing from the joys of living and all the enjoyment that life has to offer.
The interesting part of this case is the punitive damages aspect of the case. In Georgia, the code section that governs punitive damages in tort actions is O.C.G.A. Section 51-12.5.1 which states in pertinent part that punitive damages are awarded not as compensation to the Plaintiff, but in cases where there are aggravating circumstances in order to penalize, punish, or deter a Defendant. To be awarded punitive damages the Plaintiff must show by clear and convincing evidence that the Defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want to care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences.
Therefore, in order for the Plaintiff in this case to recover punitive damages from any of the Defendants’ in this action, Allman or CSX, the Plaintiff must show that the Defendants owed a duty of care to Ms. Jones by taking further safety measures under the circumstances, that the Defendants were not only negligent in failing to do so, but that the Defendants also acted with the entire want to care with a conscious indifference to the consequences of their actions such as to rise to the level of an award of punitive damages against one or both of the Defendants. This is not an easy burden for the Plaintiffs to prove, and it will not be presumed even though the acts resulted in the death of Ms. Jones.
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates we are experts at these types of cases of wrongful death so if a loved one has been killed as the result of the negligence of another, and whether or not such negligence rises to the level of a punitive damages award, then please contact us as soon as possible for your free legal consultation.
You may Contact Us anytime by phone at 770-865-8654, by email at email@example.com, on this blog, or on our website, and we are here to help you, and make sure that you receive all of the just compensation that you deserve, even punitive damages if your case so warrants, in any wrongful death action.