Stuntwoman Olivia Jackson has won a legal victory in a South African court against a company involved in the filming of 2016’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
The United Kingdom-based stunt performer lost her left arm and spent 17 days in a coma following a tragic accident during the filming of a scene for the Paul W.S. Anderson-directed zombie film, starring Milla Jovovich as zombie fighter, Alicia “Alice” Marcus. The film was the sixth and final Resident Evil film produced by Anderson (and the fourth that he also directed).
The accident occurred while Jackson was filling in for Jovovich in a motorcycle sequence filmed in Cape Town, where Jackson had to ride at high speeds towards a vehicle with a crane-mounted camera on it.
Jackson collided with the camera on the outside of the vehicle and it left her seriously injured. Besides her left arm having to be amputated above the elbow and the aforementioned 17 days spent in a coma, Jackson suffered a twisted spine, paralysis of the top left quarter of her body including her neck, a dislocated shoulder, a severed thumb, punctured lungs and broken ribs, and still suffers lasting nerve damage and facial scarring.
Initially, Jackson sued Anderson and the production companies for the film in the United States, but that case was dismissed, and instead, Jackson filed suit against the South African company, Bickers Actions SA, that had been operating the camera and filming vehicle, as well as Gustav Marais and Roland Melville, the two men who were operating the camera and the vehicle, respectively.
The judge ruled in favor of Jackson, dismissing the argument that the accident was a result of Jackson’s motorcycle-riding skills. The judge determined that Jackson had not voluntarily assumed the risk of the accident, especially as she did not know that Anderson had actually told the uninsured driver, Melville, to drive closer to Jackson than the safety margin that they had agreed to and used in an earlier rehearsal of the scene. Anderson felt that it would be a more impressive shot if they were closer to Jackson.
Jackson spoke about the ruling afterwards, noting, “I miss my old face. I miss my old body. I miss my old life. At least I now finally have a court judgment that proves this stunt was badly planned and that it was not my fault.”
Jackson’s counsel, Julian Chamberlayne, added, “This judgment is an important recognition that stunt performers are not themselves inherently responsible, nor willing but disposable volunteers when something goes wrong. Like all workers they are owed a duty of care by those responsible for the safest possible performance of the stunt.”