The family of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer fatally shot by Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie “Rust” last year, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on Tuesday in New Mexico against crew members and producers, including Mr. Baldwin.
The suit, filed by Ms. Hutchins’s widower, Matthew Hutchins; her 9-year-old son; and the personal representative of Ms. Hutchins’s estate, accused Mr. Baldwin and the other defendants of reckless conduct and cost-cutting measures that endangered the crew, including failing to follow basic industry standard safety checks and gun safety rules.
“Halyna Hutchins deserved to live, and the Defendants had the power to prevent her death if they had only held sacrosanct their duty to protect the safety of every individual on a set where firearms were present,” the lawsuit said, “instead of cutting corners on safety procedures where human lives were at stake, rushing to stay on schedule and ignoring numerous complaints of safety violations.”
Ms. Hutchins, 42, was shot on Oct. 21 while the production was lining up camera angles for a scene in which Mr. Baldwin draws an old-fashioned revolver from a shoulder holster. Shortly before the gun went off, discharging a bullet that killed Ms. Hutchins and injured Joel Souza, the film’s director, the crew had been told that the revolver did not contain live ammunition and was safe to handle.
The lawsuit said Mr. Baldwin “recklessly shot and killed Halyna Hutchins on the set.” Mr. Baldwin has said in the past that he was not to blame for her death. “Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” Mr. Baldwin said in an ABC television interview in December. “Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”
What Happened on the Set of ‘Rust’
Aaron Dyer, a lawyer for Mr. Baldwin and other “Rust” producers, said in a statement that “any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false,” arguing that Mr. Baldwin and other members of the cast and crew were relying on professionals tasked specifically with checking firearms.
“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,” the statement said.
He noted that “everyone’s hearts and thoughts remain with Halyna’s family as they continue to process this unspeakable tragedy.”
At a news conference, lawyers for Mr. Hutchins played a video that used animation to recreate what they say happened on the day of the shooting, based on interviews with crew members and at one point including Mr. Baldwin’s comments from the ABC interview.
The lawsuit said that the defendants should not have allowed live ammunition onto the set, that Mr. Baldwin should not have pointed a gun at anyone, and accused the production of “aggressive cost-cutting” that it said had “jeopardized and endangered the safety of the cast and crew.” The suit claimed that the producers had hired an “inexperienced” and “unqualified” armorer, and that members of the production had ignored earlier firearms discharges on the set that had led to complaints about a lack of safety.
Brian Panish, a lawyer for Mr. Hutchins, said at a news conference in Los Angeles: “There are many people culpable, but Mr. Baldwin was the person holding the weapon that, but for him shooting it, she would not have died. So clearly he has a significant portion of the liability, but there are others.”
Last month, lawyers for the Hutchins family indicated that they were contemplating a lawsuit when they asked a court to appoint a representative in New Mexico for Ms. Hutchins’s estate. Under New Mexico law, half of any proceeds from the lawsuit would go to Mr. Hutchins and half would go to her son.
Ms. Hutchins was a rising cinematographer from Ukraine; friends and colleagues described her as fiercely dedicated to the art of filmmaking.
It remains unclear why live bullets were on the film set and how one of them got into the gun that Mr. Baldwin was handling. The sheriff’s office in Santa Fe has been investigating that question since the fatal shooting, but officials have made no new public disclosures about the inquiry since last month, when Mr. Baldwin turned his cellphone over to the authorities.
Several other lawsuits have been filed in relation to the shooting. Two crew members filed separate lawsuits in California, alleging that cost-cutting measures by the production contributed to lax adherence to safety protocols and that Mr. Baldwin should have checked that the gun was safe to handle. Lawyers for Mr. Baldwin and other producers behind “Rust” filed a motion seeking to dismiss one of the lawsuits, arguing that Mr. Baldwin could not have intentionally shot a live bullet from the gun because he had been told it was “cold,” meaning it did not contain any live bullets.
Mr. Baldwin has denied responsibility in the shooting, saying in the television interview last year that Ms. Hutchins was instructing him on where to point the gun when it discharged. He said he did not pull the trigger, suggesting that it could have been set off when he pulled back the hammer.
The lawsuit accused him and others of not properly following safety protocols. Other defendants include Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, who the lawsuit accuses of being unqualified for the job; Dave Halls, the first assistant director, who told an investigator that he did not check all of the rounds in the gun before handing it to Mr. Baldwin; and Seth Kenney, a supplier of guns and ammunition for the film.
Jason Bowles, a lawyer for Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, said she inspected the gun before handing it over to Mr. Halls that day and asked that she be called back to recheck it later, but the production did not do so. Mr. Kenney and a lawyer for Mr. Halls did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Had Defendant Baldwin, the Producers, and the Rust Production Companies taken adequate precautions to ensure firearm safety on the set of Rust or if basic firearm safety rules had been followed on the set of Rust on Oct. 21, 2021,” the lawsuit said, “Halyna Hutchins would be alive and well, hugging her husband and nine-year old son.”