Case can go to trial against Sony, but not Topanga

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A lawsuit filed by a “S.W.A.T.” television series actor injured in 2018 while shooting a scene involving a helicopter on the CBS series can proceed to trial against Sony, but not a second production company, a judge has ruled.

What You Need To Know

  • Kenny Johnson brought the lawsuit in July 2020
  • It was against Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Sony subsidiary Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Topanga Productions Inc.
  • It alleges negligence, ultrahazardous activity and peculiar risk
  • The two companies argued the case should be dismissed, saying neither company was involved in the stunt’s coordination

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel M. Crowley heard arguments on a defense motion to dismiss plaintiff Kenny Johnson’s lawsuit on Oct. 13, then took the case under submission and ruled on Thursday.

Johnson, 59, brought the lawsuit in July 2020 against Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Sony subsidiary Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Topanga Productions Inc., alleging negligence, ultrahazardous activity and peculiar risk. The two companies argued the case should be dismissed, saying neither company was involved in the stunt’s coordination.

In his ruling, Crowley said Topanga Productions exclusively controlled, supervised and directed Johnson’s work and produced all tools he used. Therefore, the part of the plaintiff’s case against Topanga belonged in the workers’ compensation arena and not in the courts, according to the judge.

However, in addressing the portion of the case against Sony, the judge noted that Johnson’s attorneys offered the declaration of a veteran stunt man who as worked as a coordinator for Sony. The stunt man concluded that Johnson’s stunt was of a high risk and “negligently designed,” and that Sony’s alleged failure to affirmatively evaluate it beforehand resulted in Johnson’s injuries, according to the judge.

“Based upon these facts, the court finds that whether Sony breached a duty to plaintiff is a question of fact (for a jury),” Crowley wrote.

In their court papers, attorneys for the Sony entities argued that their clients did not provide the equipment used in the stunt or take part in its design or coordination, nor did they have control over the work Johnson performed during the “S.W.A.T.” series.

Johnson plays the character of Officer Dominque Luca and was on the “S.W.A.T.” set on July 18, 2018, to film a scene in which he was to simulate being pulled through the air while hanging onto the landing gear of a helicopter, according to the suit, which alleges the actor was “unreasonably exposed to danger and injury” during filming.

Johnson’s lawyers maintain in their court papers that the actor was healthy and in good physical shape before the incident, but the stunt left him injured in his “health, strength and activity” and also caused shock to his nervous system.

Johnson’s other roles include portraying Detective Curtis Lemansky in “The Shield,” Butch “Burner” Barnes in “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” and Detective Ham Dewey in “Saving Grace.”