What Could Alec Baldwin Be Liable For?

ELI5: Negligence

On October 21, 2021, Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot by the actor, Alec Baldwin, on the set of Rust, an upcoming American western film. Though the shooting appears to be an accident (whether or not a civil trial will happen), whether or not a criminal trial will happen also remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain, Halyna’s death was preventable and a result of the negligence of others. Therefore, many people are wondering, if Halyna’s family decided to file a wrongful death claim, who would be liable?


In a civil suit, liability can be apportioned. This means that, when two parties are negligent, the jury decides how much liability each party has, and how much of the judgment each party will pay. If the case does not go to trial, the attorneys of each party will negotiate how much of the settlement each defendant will pay to the plaintiff. Because there are so many checks and balances on a film set, the liability in a wrongful death claim would likely be apportioned across multiple parties. In this case, each party would pay a part of the judgment correlating to the amount of fault they had in the incident. This means that the judgment is not always split evenly across multiple parties when liability is apportioned. 


The assistant director, Dave Halls, may have some liability in the tragic accident of October 21st. Even though he didn’t pull the trigger, Halls may still be liable because he was the person that handed Alec Baldwin the gun. Also, according to Alec Baldwin, when Dave Halls handed Alec the gun, he allegedly told him, “This is a cold gun.” Meaning, this gun is not loaded. Some may argue that, because Halls is not the armorer, he should not be responsible for ensuring that the guns he hands to Alec are unloaded. However, it would likely be argued that the assistant director should have double checked the gun before telling Alec it was a cold gun.


The armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, also may be liable in a civil suit. This is because the armorer was responsible for making sure the weapons on set were working properly and unloaded. Regarding the Alec Baldwin shooting accident, the armorer alleges that she had double checked to make sure the guns weren’t hot. Furthermore, her defense team has commented on the shooting, saying that Ms.Gutierrez-Reed was stretched too thin, being given too many jobs on the set. However, the fact remains that a bullet did get into the chamber of the revolver, and it was Hannah’s job to make sure that the guns weren’t hot. Also, Hannah’s liability may be increased since the October 21st shooting was not the first accidental gun discharge. Crew members also allege that gunfights on the set were not being monitored closely enough.


Finally, Alec Baldwin himself may be liable. Alec Baldwin could have checked the gun as soon as it was handed to him. Also, since it was a revolver, it was likely possible to easily see that the gun was indeed loaded. A lot of people were shocked by Alec Baldwin’s claim that he didn’t pull the trigger. However, because of how some revolvers work, it’s possible that just releasing the hammer was enough to cause the gun to fire. Because of this, the producer and the armorer should have ensured that Alec was properly trained before handing him the gun. And, since Alec Baldwin was the producer, he may be liable for how weapons were handled on his set.


Though we can’t tell who is liable without the help of a jury, one thing is for certain: we can all make an impact on firearm accidents in America. If you are a gun owner, it’s important that you have the right training on how to handle your weapons and how to use them. You can also contribute to the safety of those around you by making sure your weapons are properly stored, especially if you have young children. A lot of people don’t understand all that goes into proving liability in a civil suit. The best way to avoid being found liable is to take proactive steps to keep your guns out of the reach of those who may hurt themselves or others.

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