By JOHN F. BANZHAF. Originally published at ValueWalk.
Baldwin Sued For Wrongful Death – As Predicted; Simply Pointing Gun is Clear Negligence By Itself
Alec Baldwin Sued
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 15, 2022) – Actor Alec Baldwin, who killed one person and seriously injured another when a gun he was holding on the set of the movie “Rust” went off, has finally been named as a defendant in a civil wrongful death action for killing Halyna Hutchins, as predicted months ago by two skilled litigators and law professors.
Baldwin is so clearly negligent – simply for pointing a gun at people even if he had been told it was a “cold gun” incapable of shooting and he believed it, and also for many other reasons – that he likely would be found legal liable in the civil suits filed against him in his individual capacity, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who teaches the law of civil liability, and has been successful in high profile civil cases.
Yes, Alex Baldwin could also be charged criminally, although much depends on the still unfolding facts around the incident, wrote Jonathan Turley, another professor of public interest law at the George Washington University Law School, and a noted criminal defense attorney and civil litigator.
Baldwin’s actions likely make him civilly liable for the tort of negligence in a wrongful death action because he did not act as a reasonably prudent person, and take reasonable steps to reduce the clearly foreseeable risks inherent in handling any gun – even one he may have reasonably believed to be “cold,” incapable of firing, unloaded, etc. – because a fundamental rule regarding any gun is to never point it at another unless you intend to shoot him, says Banzhaf.
Even very young children are taught never to point any gun at another; a basic and common sense rule emphasized over and over again on movie sets, and thus one which would establish the standard of care any person – much less for an experienced movie actor and producer – would know, argues Banzhaf, who has been called the “Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry,” a “King of Class-Action Lawsuits,” and “a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Millions of Dollars.”
Several Hollywood gun safety experts agree that no actor should ever point a gun at another human, even if he believed it to be safe. For example, Hollywood firearms consultant Bryan Carpenter put it this way: “Loaded or unloaded, a weapon never gets pointed at another human being.”
The Negligence Of Several Different People
Banzhaf emphasizes that Baldwin would be found civilly liable for causing the death of Hutchins even if there were others who were even more negligent – e.g., the armorer, the assistant director, etc. – since accidents can be caused by the negligence of several different people; in which case any person whose negligence contributed to the accident can be held liable for all of the resulting damages.
While this wrongful death action also names armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and assistant director David Halls as defendants, it is Baldwin who is most likely to have the fortune and/or insurance to satisfy a large jury verdict for Hutchins’ estate.
In addition, Baldwin might also be civilly liable in his role as a producer of the movie who may have ignored prior instances of a gun discharging on the set (which he presumably would have known about), complaints of violations of established safety standards on the set by crew members, hiring an inexperienced “armorer” for a movie involving a significant amount of shooting, etc.
Prof. Turley also agrees with this additional basis for civil liability, saying that “as a producer, Baldwin could be ultimately implicated in the negligence leading to the shootings.”
Naming him in negligence law suit could press Baldwin or others to offer significant sums to avoid what could otherwise be a very embarrassing trial, suggests Banzhaf. It could also pressure him to testify against others who might have been even more negligent, to reveal new information valuable to the plaintiffs and take other steps to reduce his involvement and potential exposure, speculates Banzhaf.
So long as it is clear that Baldwin did in fact point a gun at others – even if he reasonably believed it to be benign, and even if somehow he did not intend to pull the trigger – his violation of the fundamental adage of never pointing even an unloaded gun at another would seem to make him clearly liable, argues Banzhaf.
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