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Home / Joel Souza

Judge leaning toward tossing two claims against some `Rust’ producers

A judge has indicated he is poised to dismiss two causes of action against some producers of the film “Rust” brought in a lawsuit by a script supervisor who was standing next to cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when she was fatally shot with a prop weapon fired by actor Alec Baldwin on the movie’s set.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Whitaker issued a tentative ruling saying he is leaning toward tossing Mitchell’s claims for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against defendants Rust Movie Productions LLC, Thomasville Pictures LLC, Ryan Smith and Langley Cheney.

The judge said that although he found Mitchell’s allegations against Baldwin to be “legally sufficient” with respect to those causes of action, the plaintiff’s lawyers are obligated under New Mexico law to show the four defendants knew that Baldwin was going to point and fire the loaded weapon towards Mitchell and provided the actor “either substantial assistance or encouragement” to do so.

“While (Mitchell) alleges that (the producers) assisted Baldwin by supplying the loaded weapon, (Mitchell’s) allegations fail to establish that (the producers) knew Baldwin would aim and fire the loaded weapon towards (Mitchell) such that they would be jointly liable for his intentional conduct,” Whitaker wrote. “In fact, (Mitchell’s) allegations would show the opposite to be true: the only person who knew Baldwin was going to fire the weapon was Baldwin.”

The judge is scheduled to hear arguments later Friday before issuing a final ruling.

Mitchell’s original suit was filed last Nov. 17, alleging that she was “standing in the line of fire when the gun went off.” She then filed amended suits on Feb. 8 and Aug. 3. The 64-year-old Baldwin is one of the defendants.

Hutchins, 42, was killed Oct. 21 while Baldwin, himself a producer and a star of “Rust,” was helping to prepare camera angles for a scene on the film’s set near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Baldwin fired a weapon that was supposed to contain only blank rounds but discharged a lead bullet that struck Hutchins in the chest and then lodged in the shoulder of director Joel Souza.

Mitchell’s suit alleges specific wrongdoing by Baldwin, claiming he fired the weapon during the rehearsal “even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of a firearm.” The actor’s lawyers are also seeking dismissal of the allegations against him in a hearing scheduled Nov. 1.

Baldwin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger, saying he instead tugged the gun’s hammer back and released it before the weapon discharged.

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