Rust Armorer Sues Ammunition Supplier For Mixing Live And Dummy Rounds

The litigation train keeps chugging along in the wake of the accidental shooting on the "Rust" set last year, which ended in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the injury of director Joel Souza. While star Alec Baldwin fired the fatal round from a set weapon during a scene rehearsal, his liability as the actor seemed limited (though the Santa Fe County DA says that criminal charges are still on the table) until the film's script supervisor filed a lawsuit against him and the producers in November.

Now, the armorer for "Rust," Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has filed suit against ammunition supplier Seth Kenney and his Albuquerque-based PDQ Arm & Prop company who, her lawyers allege, gave a reckless mixture of inert dummy rounds and live ammunition, launching the first in a series of negligent missteps that ended in the tragic death of Hutchins, who leaves behind a husband and a young son.

Gutierrez-Reed filed the suit in New Mexico under the state's unfair trade practices law, asserting that Kenney and PDQ Arm & Prop introduced dangerous products onto a film set and is liable for injuries caused by products (ammo) they distributed. The complaint, which Variety has made available, describes October 21 as Gutierrez-Reed experienced it.

The Lawsuit

The suit first establishes Gutierrez-Reed and her position as armorer as well as Kenney, the company he owns, and the ammunition products he distributed to the "Rust" production, to include dummy rounds (which has no primer or explosive charge) in boxes labeled "dummy rounds .45 long or .45 LC." Each box contains 50 arranged cartridges. The suit states that the defendants also supplied .44 and .40 caliber dummy rounds and asserts:

Defendants distributed boxes of ammunition purporting to contain dummy rounds, but which contained a mix of dummy and live ammunition to the Rust production," the suit states. "Hannah and the entire Rust movie crew relied on the Defendants' misrepresentation that they provided only dummy ammunition. In so doing, Defendants created a dangerous condition on the movie set, unbeknownst to Hannah Gutierrez Reed, which caused a foreseeable risk of injury to numerous people.

Kenney has previously given investigators a possible route for the live rounds to end up in the cartridge, but has later vehemently denied that the rounds could have come from him. The suit counter-alleges that the ammunition company owner is simply trying to dodge blame, and is fully responsible for what happened according to strict liability law which places liability on sellers, distributors, and manufacturers for defective products that cause injury. Whether a live round that magically ends up in a box of dummy rounds counts as a "defect" remains to be seen in court. 

Who Is Responsible?

Through it all, Gutierrez-Reed has maintained her innocence. Previously in November, her attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence went onto the "Today" show to suggest that the live rounds were the result of intentional sabotage, which did not help the armorer in the public eye. Now, her team paints a distinct picture in the lawsuit, one of a young, overworked, underpaid hire whose listed responsibilities as a set armorer conspicuously omits any mention of weapons safety. The complaint makes much of the steps Gutierrez-Reed took on the morning of October 21, to include her purchase of a weapons safe and an auditory check to hear the tell-tale rattle that indicates a box full of dummy rounds. She took many of the steps that she was supposed to in her duties as armorer, but what the 24 pages of legalese boil down to is found on page 7: "Upon information and belief, the dummy rounds and live rounds came from Defendants."

As the courtroom heats up, it's still unclear how a live round made its way onto a film set and into the hands of an actor, and everyone and no one is to blame. The "Rust" saga is clearly far from over.