Family of woman killed on ‘Rust’ set sues Alec Baldwin, others

February 16, 2022 - 9:34 AM
Brian Panish, lead attorney for late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins speaks to media, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 15, 2022. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

LOS ANGELES — The family of a woman killed during filming of the Western “Rust” filed a wrongful death lawsuit against actor Alec Baldwin and others on Tuesday, claiming they disregarded several standard industry practices meant to keep movie sets safe.

The civil suit was filed in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, on behalf of Matthew Hutchins, husband of late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and the couple’s 9-year-old son.

“The lawsuit names Alec Baldwin and others who are responsible for the safety on the set and whose reckless behavior and cost cutting led to the senseless and tragic death of Halyna Hutchins,” attorney Brian Panish said at a news conference in Los Angeles.

Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded when a .45-caliber Colt revolver Baldwin was using during a rehearsal fired off a live bullet. The movie, on which Baldwin also served as a producer, was being filmed at Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Aaron Dyer, an attorney for Baldwin and other “Rust” producers, said, “Any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false.”

The “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” actor has said he was told the gun was “cold,” an industry term meaning it is safe to use.

“This protocol has worked on thousands of films, with millions of discharges, and there has never before been an incident on a set where an actual bullet harmed anyone,” Dyer said.

“Actors should be able to rely on armorers and prop department professionals, as well as assistant directors, rather than deciding on their own when a gun is safe to use,” Dyer added.

But Panish said Baldwin bore “a significant portion of liability” because he shot the weapon that killed Halyna Hutchins.

The attorney showed an animated recreation of what he believed happened inside a church where actors were filming when the shooting occurred. Panish said he did not believe the weapon was defective.

“The gun cannot fire unless the trigger is engaged and the hammer is back,” Panish said during the video. “So he had the gun. He says he pulled the hammer back. It fired. She was killed.”

Baldwin has said he pulled the gun’s hammer back but did not pull the trigger. The lawsuit said Baldwin had a responsibility to keep his finger away from the trigger and not operate the hammer during a rehearsal.

The incident remains under investigation by New Mexico authorities who are trying to determine how live ammunition made it onto the movie set. No criminal charges have been filed.

Panish said Baldwin should have personally checked the gun to ensure it did not contain live rounds, and that he should not have pointed it directly at a person.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, named about two dozen defendants in addition to Baldwin, including armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed and assistant director David Halls. Representatives for Gutierrez Reed and Halls did not immediately respond to requests for comment. —Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Mark Porter and Rosalba O’Brien