Two film companies have filed a lawsuit against their insurer, alleging the insurance company should have settled with a cameraman who suffered grievous injuries from an accident during a production.
The Los Angeles cameraman James Razo sued Black Label Media and No Exit Film for injuries he sustained in 2016 on the set of Only the Brave.
During a shoot for the firefighter film, Razo was directed to bring a 3,000-pound mobile camera crane unit immediately up a peak at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in New Mexico, despite pleas from the cameraman to install tank threads on the unit to allow it to scale steep angles. While driving the camera up the mountain, the unit lost traction and began to slide, eventually tipping backwards and pinning Razo underneath. The accident resulted in severe spinal cord and brain injuries for Razo, and parts of his body were also crushed.
A jury on December 23, 2022, awarded Razo and his wife more than $66 million, but the amount was adjusted to $60 million after jurors determined that Razo himself was 19% responsible for the incident. A final judgement was reached on January 05, and a New Mexico state district judge ordered the two film companies to pay Razo over $60 million.
But on January 06, 2023, the two companies filed a complaint against insurer New York Marine and General Insurance alleging breach of contract. According to the lawsuit they filed, the companies had two policies with New York Marine with a combined liability limit of $11 million. The companies additionally alleged in the suit that instead of helping settle the claim with Razo, New York Marine hired outside counsel to fight the claim for years. As the trial approached, the two companies demanded a settlement, but New York Marine allegedly refused and only made offers that were “lower than appropriate.”
The Razo family had even asked for $9 million to settle the case four days before the December 19 trial, the lawsuit said, but New York Marine did not even try to make a counteroffer. And during the trial itself, the insurer offered the Razos $5 million, but the “gamble did not pay off.”
This is not the first time New York Marine and General Insurance has been sued over a tragic incident that happened during a film production.
In 2017, the insurer was sued by Film Allman after the insurer refused to pay the production company. Film Allman was shooting on a railway bridge in 2014 for the biopic Midnight Rider when a train roared through, killing a camera operator. Director Randall Miller was prosecuted for his role in the accident and took a plea deal for criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter – at this, New York Marine cited a criminal acts exclusion in the policy and then refused to cover the production company.