Article  |  Forum | 2022-2023

Laid To Rust: Proposing Strict Liability in Tort for Prop Firearm Injuries Following the Alec Baldwin Shooting

by Mark Edward Blankenship Jr., and Joseph A. Ott

Prop gun safety standards are often a mixed bag. “Despite some industry reforms following previous tragedies, the federal workplace safety agency in the U.S. is silent on the issue of on-set gun safety.” Some states follow film labor union and movie studio guidelines. Other states have regulations on pyrotechnic devices, but not on prop guns. Thus, states should consider what successful legal course of action a wrongfully deceased heir can bring in the event that no criminal charges can be filed.

This article proposes that the best regulatory approach and tort liability course of action is through (1) treating prop guns the same as a pyrotechnic device, and (2) characterizing the use of prop guns on-set as an abnormally or inherently dangerous activity for purposes of strict liability, should no criminal charges be granted. Part I provides both a mechanical and historical overview of the use of prop weapons in film and television. Part II further explains how props are regulated. Parts III and IV analyze the tort legal framework and explain why strict liability analysis is best suited for injuries caused by such prop gun devices.

7 Nev. L. J. Forum 76 (2023).