Joe Watts, a stuntman working on “Fast & Furious 9,” has been put into a medically induced coma after suffering a serious head injury near London, England. USA TODAY recently reported:
“Watts was on an elevated stage which was part of an action sequence, according to the source. The mishap shut down the action film’s production on the Warner Bros. set in Leavesden, England, about 20 miles northwest of London.
Police and ambulance services were called and Watts was evacuated by air ambulance after the incident, which comes less than a week after the death of a crew member on TV’s ‘Titans’ series during stunt preparation in Toronto.”
He was transported by air ambulance to the Royal London Hospital. Variety reports that “The U.K. agency responsible for workplace safety confirmed that it is now investigating the accident.”
Another unsafe workspace for stunt workers leads to another senseless tragedy
Mr. Watts is an experienced stuntman whose credits include “Game of Thrones,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” This was not his first time on an elevated set, nor his first time filming an action sequence.
However, even if it had been, why he was in a position where he could fall for 30 feet in the first place, without any type of warning or safety protocols in place to prevent him from getting hurt?
And why does it keep happening?
When veteran stuntman John Bernecker was working on the Atlanta set of “The Walking Dead” in 2017, he fell 22 feet off of an elevated platform, missing the safety cushion. He, too, suffered a critical brain injury – one that ultimately claimed his life.
In 2018, OSHA imposed the maximum fine allowed under federal law on Stalwart Films LLC for its “failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards.” This tragic case is expected to go to trial in Georgia later this year, with Harris Lowry Manton LLP trial attorney Jeff Harris representing Susan Bernecker, the mother of John Bernecker, in the wrongful death claim.
The list of stunt people who have sustained life-altering or fatal injuries is so long it warrants its own Wikipedia page. In the last decade alone, at least 35 stunt people and crew workers have been killed while filming, including camera assistant Sarah Elizabeth Jones, who died during the making of the Gregg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider.” Harris Lowry Manton LLP represented the family of Ms. Jones in wrongful death lawsuit, securing an $11.2 million jury verdict in 2017.
Fighting to keep stunt people, crew members, and actors safe
Georgia may officially be the “Peach State,” but as the entertainment industry expanded, the state has earned another nickname: “Hollywood of the South.” Georgia ranks third behind California and New York in terms of the number of films made statewide. This is great news for Georgia but, tragically, more and more stunt and crew workers are getting catastrophically injured or even killed on film and TV sets. We owe it to these men and women to protect them, and to fight for them when their lives are at stake.
Harris Lowry Manton LLP is highly experienced when it comes to fighting for actors and stunt actors who are injured on set, or while filming action sequences. We understand the risks inherent with this work, and we understand the laws in place that are supposed to protect these professionals.