Battle between ill-fated film production, insurer takes bizarre turn

A years-long tangle between a film company and its insurer has already involved a tragic death and a manslaughter plea. Now a new twist may change things completely

Battle between ill-fated film production, insurer takes bizarre turn

Insurance News

By Ryan Smith

It already involved a train accident, a tragic death, imprisonment, and Gregg Allman. And now the protracted legal battle between a film production company and an insurer has taken yet another turn.

Production company Film Allman is fighting its insurer, New York Marine and General Insurance Company, over millions of dollars it says the insurer owes on coverage of Midnight Rider, a doomed biopic about rocker Gregg Allman.

The production was scuttled in 2014 after the crew set up a shot on a railway bridge, only to have to flee when a train roared through. Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera operator, was killed in the incident.

Jones’s death brought the production to a halt and eventually sent the director of the film to prison. Director Randall Miller was prosecuted for his role in the accident, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He eventually took a plea deal for criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter. And New York Marine, citing a criminal-acts exclusion in Film Allman’s policy, refused to pay its claim.

Miller was supposed to serve two years in prison, but was released in about half that time because of problems with the plea agreement, according to the Hollywood Reporter. And now the FBI is actively investigating whether Miller was wrongfully prosecuted and incarcerated, according to court documents filed by Film Allman.

The production company has already accused New York Marine of trying to sabotage Midnight Rider, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It’s also claiming that the insurer had conflicts, and actively planned to drive Miller into bankruptcy to avoid paying off the policy. Miller and the film’s producer also introduced evidence that the rail company had never officially withheld permission to use the tracks where the accident occurred.

However, a federal judge ruled in December that New York Marine was right to exclude criminal acts under the film’s insurance policy, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

In light of the FBI investigation, Film Allman is asking for reconsideration. According to court filings, the bureau is investigating “probably civil rights violations” and “the possible wrongful prosecution of Mr. Miller.” The production company called the FBI investigation “the latest and possibly the most compelling reason that this Court should reconsider whether the ‘criminal acts’ exclusion applies in this case.”

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