LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The assistant director who allegedly handed Alec Baldwin the prop weapon that discharged and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust” in New Mexico in 2021 obtained a split ruling Friday in his bid to win dismissal of two of the three claims the actor has filed against him in a countersuit.
David Halls’ motion asked that Baldwin’s claims against him for equitable indemnification and contribution be dismissed, but Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Whitaker tossed only the contribution allegation. The judge also denied Halls’ separate request to strike Baldwin’s claim for punitive damages, noting that Halls was responsible for the safe handling of guns on the set.
“Halls breached his duty as assistant director in numerous ways, including by either failing to adequately check the chamber of the weapon or failing to raise any concern as to what he saw and proceeding to declare a gun cold despite any assurance that it was in fact cold, which led to live ammunition being loaded into Baldwin’s weapon,” the judge wrote. “Halls also breached his duty of care by neglecting his duties as safety coordinator and failing to hold the required safety briefings and to distribute the necessary safety protocols.”
Baldwin also is counter-suing Halls for negligence, but that cause of action was not part of Halls’ motion. Baldwin alleges that crew members negligently put live ammunition in the gun that he was holding when it discharged during rehearsal, killing the 42-year-old Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, now 49.
Halls’ lawyers maintained in their court papers that Baldwin is not liable to Mitchell on any basis and that therefore the cause of action for indemnification should be dismissed.
“Without any factual allegations of any potential liability on the part of Baldwin … there is nothing for Halls to indemnify him for,” Halls’ lawyers argued in their court papers.
Insofar as the contribution cause of action, Halls’ lawyers state in their court papers that the law requires that a money judgment be rendered against two or more defendants and that a judgment has been paid, neither of which has occurred in the litigation.
Halls has filed his own litigation against the 64-year-old Baldwin, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, prop master Sarah Zachry and Seth Kenney and his company, PDQ Arm & Prop, which supplied prop weapons and ammunition to the production. In his countersuit, Halls denies any liability, but asks that the parties he is suing be required to pay any damages assessed against him above any comparative fault he may be found to have in the case. Halls also alleges still unidentified “Roe” defendants breached a contract to insure him against liability in the case.
All the litigation stems from an underlying complaint by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, who sued Baldwin and other crew members alleging she suffered emotional distress from being so close to the shooting.
Baldwin and the 25-year-old Gutierrez-Reed have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death. Halls entered a plea bargain to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon with terms that include six months of probation and a suspended sentence, according to New Mexico prosecutors.