South African stuntwoman Olivia Jackson has won a legal battle against a company involved in the making of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. She suffered life-changing injuries after being involved in a horrendous motorcycle crash on the set of the 2016 movie.
During a complex shoot in Cape Town in 2015, Jackson, 36, was standing in as a stunt double for star Milla Jovovich for a scene in which Alice — the action/horror series’ main character — drives a motorcycle towards the camera at a very high speed.
While filming, the U.K.-based stunt actor collided head-on with the crane-mounted camera vehicle. The camera was supposed to move out of her way in time, however it did not, according to Variety.
Jackson was left in a coma for 17 days and had her left arm amputated above the elbow as a result of the crash.
Last month, following a two-day hearing, the South African high court declared that the stunt was “negligently planned and executed” by Bickers Action SA, the company in charge of the camera and the vehicle carrying it, according to files obtained by the Hollywood Reporter (THR).
The defendants — Roland Melville and Gustav Marais — argued that Jackson was at fault for the crash due to her motorcycle riding, however those allegations were dismissed by the court.
The judge ruled that Jackson had not voluntarily assumed the risk of the collision, adding that she was never made aware that director Paul W.S. Anderson instructed Melville, the uninsured driver, to try and get a better action shot by decreasing the level of safety precautions set in rehearsal, as reported by THR.
In addition to her amputation, Jackson’s spine was slightly twisted and fractured, causing nerve damage and slight paralysis in the upper left portion of her body — injuries for which she still attends physiotherapy.
As well as that, she was left with a severed thumb, facial scars, several broken ribs, punctured lungs and a dislocated shoulder.
“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 said in a statement, addressing the recent court ruling.
Following the career-ending shot, Jackson took to Instagram to talk about her road to recovery, how the unfortunate event has impacted her life overall and why she wants to see a major change in the film industry.
“My life has changed dramatically, and it’s been a long, painful and extremely difficult path for me to walk,” she wrote. “I refuse to give up on trying to heal my broken body and I refuse to just keep silent when film productions put profit before people.
“At the very least, film crews ought to be able to rely on there being appropriate insurance in place when accidents happen. Unfortunately, as I have learned, this isn’t always the case,” she added.
Before she signed onto the film, the producers allegedly misled her into believing any injuries sustained on the job would be covered by their insurance, according to ABC, which conducted an interview with Jackson last September.
Even after the crash, they offered to cover her medical expenses, however only paid US$33,000 of her massive bills, ABC reported.
Jackson said if she knew beforehand that there would not have been any insurance coverage that she would have never filmed the scene.
“We all need to stand together and speak up to raise awareness of productions that run haphazardly organised sets, put people’s lives at risk and then cut people off when something goes wrong, hoping they will just go away quietly,” Jackson wrote on Instagram.
Jackson’s attorney, Julian Chamberlayne, said in a statement: “Action movies that require people to carry out dangerous stunts should always be very carefully planned and performed. They should also be backed by insurance that can meet the very significant lifelong losses that could be incurred by any member of the cast and crew who is seriously injured.”
The high court ruled that Jackson’s crash was a “road traffic accident,” meaning that South Africa’s Road Accident Fund would be responsible for compensating the stuntwoman, according to Variety.
A later trial to assess and determine Jackson’s compensation is expected in the next year or two. Whether or not she will actually receive that is currently unclear.