What’s The Verdict: Producer for ‘Midnight Rider’ Claims Catch 22 by Insurance Company!

What’s The Verdict: Producer for ‘Midnight Rider’ Claims Catch 22 by Insurance Company. 

First, a little history.  This past March, Midnight Rider director Randall Miller pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in the death of the Sarah Jones, a camera assistant on the set of Greg Allman biopic, which happened in November 2014. The parents of Jones reached a settlement agreement with Randall and more of the film’s producers. Fast forward a couple months and the production company, Film Allman LLC is blaming the insurance company for much of what has happened since the fatal accident.  So…what has happened?

Papers filed today reveal that although a settlement was reached a couple months ago, this happened “over the objection” of the producers and was allegedly against their “best interests.”

Film Allman claims that the insurance company refused its request for its own lawyers in the wrongful death lawsuit, then made a $5 million settlement without consulting the production company.  In addition, the insurance company told producers that the settlement exhausted the limits on their policies, leaving them to fend for themselves on other cases still pending. Uh…isn’t it the job of the insurance company to INSURE?!  Also, the insurance company allegedly declined to accept a contribution to the $5 million settlement from the paper company that owns the land around the train tracks where Midnight Rider was filming and where a train struck and killed Jones.  If this is in fact true, what could possibly be the reasoning for declining a contribution? Accordingly, the production company strongly believes that the insurance company has perpetrated a “scheme,” and in its own self-interest, made a “bad faith attempt to avoid payment at every turn.”  Here we go again with the bad rep insurance companies have long-held.

But there’s more.  Back in March, Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin pleaded guilty in the wrongful death lawsuit, but the production company is arguing that neither Miller nor Savin received “an adequate defense.”  Miller and Savin’s attorney was actually the same attorney represented first assistant director Hilary Schwartz.  Schwartz was actually accusing her former superiors of criminal conduct.  Why did they have the same attorney? As previously stated, the insurance company refused requests for its own lawyers.

Today, Film Allman LLC asked the judge’s permission to amend a lawsuit against New York Marine and General Insurance Company with claims of the following: (1) breach of contract, (2) anticipatory repudiation and (3) breach of good faith.  The complaint held the following: “In a classic ‘Catch 22,’ Film Allman could not proceed with the Film without obtaining its insurance proceeds, and it could not obtain proceeds until it continued filming. Therefore, New York Marine sabotaged the Film, the very thing that it agreed to insure and protect when it issued the Producers Policy to Film Allman.”

A deal was worked out where the insurance company agreed to a $1.6 million cash flow schedule on a weekly basis as long as certain pre-production milestones were met.  The insurance company stopped reimbursing some expenses due to the ongoing criminal case Miller and Savin were dealing with. Furthermore, the insurance company believed that no pre-production milestones had been met and that the producers through a newly formed production company intended to make another film.  According to Leon Galdstone, speaking on behalf of New York Marine, “The policy covers extra expenses incurred in completing principal photography of the insured production, not an entirely new production to be made by a new production company, with a new script and a new cast.”

Film Allman defends itself by arguing that in an effort to re-prepare Midnight Rider for production, it revised the script to focus on the 1970’s rock and roll world generally, rather than specifically on the life of Gregg Allman. Apparently, the insurer’s were aware of this re-focus, but New York Marine is claiming that the revised script constituted a new production; thus, it was not covered by the policy.  The production company is having a huge issue with their insurance not covering the very thing they are supposed to insure.  I’m more surprised by the fact that it was not clearly laid out what constituted a new production and what was included in the policy.  Shouldn’t this have been specifically outlined?

Do you think its possible the production company took advantage of the freedom given to re-start production? Or do you think this is a classic example of an insurance company finagling to cut down costs? Stay tuned for updates on What’s The Verdict?

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