After the on-set death of their son during a film shoot in April, the parents of a Chapman University student are suing USC and two other students for negligence.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, Peng Wang, a 29-year-old cinematographer at Chapman, died after an off-road vehicle rolled with Wang inside during a shoot at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. The Wang family’s suit, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, alleges that the prestigious school sanctioned the shoot and its use of off-road vehicles. USC, however, has previously suggested the film students acted independently while making their short film, Finale.
In their lawsuit, the family points out that USC’s film school had approved a “student certification” for the film, even assigning it a production number. In addition to the certification, the budget for the film listed an off-road vehicle, lodging, and an RV—also noting that the film would be shooting in the desert.
“Safety should trump everything on student film projects made in fulfillment of USC class requirements,” the family states in their suit. “USC has a responsibility to return the people who make its films back to their families intact. USC is liable for its negligent failure to exercise control over, and to ensure safety on, the ‘Finale’ student film project. That negligence resulted in [Wang’s] death and the ensuing damages for which plaintiffs bring suit to recover.”
The Wang family’s suit also alleges that the “location of the shoot, and the intentions of the students in regard to filming, were open and obvious to the faculty and staff at USC who were in charge of approving the project.”
On Tuesday, USC issued a statement reading, “USC was not responsible for Mr. Wang’s tragic death. We will be sharing the facts about our robust safety procedures and safety record in court.” Lawyers representing the USC film students, Biangling Li and Ting Su, have not made a statement.
While the suit has yet to be resolved, Maria Vela, Inland Empire senior deputy district attorney, will not be filing charges, telling the Times, “I have reviewed the case, and found that the suspect did not commit and criminal act… This was just a terrible accident that unfortunately resulted in a tragedy, but there was no criminal offense committed.”