Universal Pictures has been slammed with massive penalties following an accident on the set of a film in one of the moviehouse’s most lucrative franchises.
In July 2019, filming for one of Universal’s films had to be halted after an actor suffered serious brain injuries related to a fractured skull he sustained when he fell on set. The actor, a veteran stuntman named Joe Watts, was performing in a scene for Universal’s Fast & Furious 9, also called F9, at London’s Leavesden Studios at the time of the accident.
The Accident in 2019
The accident happened during the rehearsal for a fight scene in the film with actor Vin Diesel’s stand-in. As part of the rehearsal, Watts dropped from a balcony but fell 25 feet onto the concrete below, hitting his head first. The scene had originally been choreographed as stuntman Watts being thrown over the stand-in’s right shoulder, but a last-minute change called for the left shoulder instead.
Watts’s safety wire became detached from his vest in the change, causing him to miss the crash mats that had been placed underneath him to cushion him in case of a fall.
British Courts Get Involved
In 2022, Watts sued the subsidiary for $1.2 million, and in response, the company finally admitted liability in the accident earlier in 2023. The studio also agreed that Watts is entitled to damages related to the accident and the studio’s negligence.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the United Kingdom, the government agency that claimed that Universal subsidiary FF9 Pictures did not have a “system for double checking that the link had been properly engaged and tightened,” brought the case before the British courts.
During the case, presiding District Judge Talwinder Buttar questioned the studio’s decision to change the choreographed stunt “at the last minute,” saying that the stuntman was “fortunate to be alive.”
A Massive Penalty is Handed Down
According to Newsbreak, the producers of Fast & Furious 9, FF9 Pictures Limited, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures that operates in the United Kingdom, previously admitted to negligence related to the accident, and on Friday, the subsidiary was hit with a major penalty.
The BBC reports that on November 24, FF9 Pictures Limited, Universal’s subsidiary in Great Britain, was fined £800,000, which is roughly equivalent to $875,000 in United States currency, as of the exchange rate at the time of this publication.