‘Rust’ Producer Not Liable for Assault in Alec Baldwin Shooting Lawsuit

Producer Anjul Nigam and his loan-out company have been let off the hook on charges in script supervisor Mamie Mitchell’s lawsuit

A Los Angeles judge has dismissed claims against one of the producers of the Western Rust, which Alec Baldwin was filming when he accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza in October.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Michael Whitaker dismissed claims of assault and emotional distress brought against producer Anjul Nigam and his loan-out corporation, Brittany House Pictures, by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell in a November lawsuit, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Whitaker ruled that Nigam cannot be held liable for those claims because Baldwin fired the revolver accidentally and—crucially, per the ruling—“unexpectedly.”

While the film industry has spent the months since the tragedy grappling with issues of firearm use and accountability, few felt it worth stating that the incident was, at the very least, a surprise.

Mitchell, the first person on the set to call 911 after the shootings, filed her lawsuit against Baldwin and 22 other Rust crew members and producers, demanding compensation for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deliberate infliction of harm.

In her complaint, Mitchell cited two previous firearm malfunctions on set, asserting that the film’s stretched budget compromised safety standards which wound up putting a pistol with live rounds in Baldwin’s hand.

Mitchell leveled the accusations at producers, she says, because they disregarded on-set safety requirements and enabled “extreme and outrageous conduct” on the part of Baldwin, who pointed and fired the handgun in her direction. While the judge did not dispute this in his ruling, he found that the accidental and unexpected nature of the discharge defeats the assault and emotional distress claims under a New Mexico law requiring that a victim be aware of danger to justifiably claim assault.

Though Mitchell was near Baldwin when he fired the weapon, the judge ruled, he did not give advance warning that he’d be firing it.

Whitaker writes in his order, “Plaintiff alleges that she witnessed Baldwin ‘moving the loaded gun within approximately 4 feet in front of her’ but did not experience any fear or apprehension until after he fired it.”

Britney House and Nigam have mostly sought to distance themselves from the events.

“Defendants are not mentioned in the factual allegations, much less alleged to have been directly involved in any of the alleged conduct,” their attorney wrote in a court filing obtained by THR. “The only allegation against Anjul Nigam and Brittany House Pictures is that they were producers of the film ‘Rust.’”

In April, New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau ordered Rust Movie Productions to pay $139,793, the highest fine legally allowed, for “a set of obvious hazards to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to act upon those obvious hazards,” as well as “serious violation” of safety law, and producers’ “plain indifference” to the welfare of cast and crew.

The Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office has not charged anyone for the killing or the events leading up to it. Baldwin has maintained that he’s not responsible for it, and his lawyers have consistently argued that he cannot, in fact, be held responsible for it.

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