Family of ‘Rust’ Cinematographer Shot on Set Begins Process of Filing Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Report

by Jennifer Shea

Halyna Hutchins’ family is moving to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico over the late cinematographer’s shooting death on the set of Rust. The low-budget film starred Alec Baldwin, who was also a producer.

Santa Fe-based attorney Kristina Martinez petitioned on Wednesday to represent Hutchins’ estate, Variety reports. In the petition, Martinez states that she is seeking to serve as the personal representative of the estate “solely for the purpose of investigating and pursuing a lawsuit under the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act in the courts of New Mexico.”

Hutchins leaves behind her husband Matthew and their 9-year-old son. Also representing her survivors is Brian Panish of Panish, Shea, Boyle & Ravipudi in Los Angeles.

In New Mexico, a deceased person’s estate has three years from the time of their death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Follows Two Earlier Lawsuits from Rust Crew Members

If Hutchins’ family goes ahead with the lawsuit, it will be the third lawsuit filed against Rust producers over the events of Oct. 21. Hutchins was reportedly lining up her shots when Baldwin fired the Colt .45 prop gun. That sent a live bullet through Hutchins’ chest and into director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her. Baldwin claims he only pulled back the hammer, not the trigger. How a live round came to be loaded in the gun remains under investigation.

The first lawsuit came from Serge Svetnoy, and it charged Baldwin and the film’s other producers with negligence. Svetnoy, the movie’s chief electrician, sued the producers for failing to implement safety standards and permitting a gun loaded with live ammunition to be pointed at people on the Rust set, per Reuters. Svetnoy reportedly held Hutchins, his friend, as she bled to death and said the experience will “haunt [him] forever.”

The second lawsuit came from script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, who first called 911 after Baldwin shot Hutchins. In her lawsuit, Mitchell argues that “Baldwin intentionally, without just cause or excuse, cocked and fired and loaded gun even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of a firearm.” Mitchell is suing for loss of future earnings, special and general damages, attorneys’ fees and punitive damages. She alleges emotional injuries as well as ringing in her ears after the incident, according to the New York Post.

Both lawsuits also name Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed as a defendant. Reed has filed a lawsuit of her own against the ammunition supplier for the movie. She claims he gave her a mix of dummy rounds and live bullets. The ammunition supplier, Seth Kenney, contests her account.

Producers Say They Were Unaware of Unsafe Conditions

Since the shooting, reports have also emerged of unsafe gun practices on set. That includes the use of prop guns to go “plinking,” or shooting at beer cans with live ammo.

Rust producers have said they are conducting an internal investigation. And they claim they did not know about any complaints from crew members of unsafe working conditions.

On the day Hutchins died, several members of the camera crew had walked off the set to protest low pay, problematic accommodations and unsafe working conditions, per USA Today. The producers reportedly replaced them with nonunion crew members in response.