By Tiffany B. Harlow
An attorney for a woman left with brain damage after participating in a "Transformers 3" stunt said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that his client "assumed no risk of injury in performing her duties as an extra."
Chicago resident Gabriela V. Cedillo, 24, signed up as an extra on the "Transformers 3" set and used her own car in a failed stunt scene filmed Sept. 1 in Northwest Indiana. The lawsuit alleges negligence against Paramount Pictures, the production company responsible for the sequel to the blockbuster hit, D.W. Studio Productions LLC, Film Industry Location Management Services, Ryerson Inc. and three individual defendants.
Attorney Todd Smith, of Power Rogers Smith P.C., said Cedillo was not given any indication there was any risk associated with the stunt, which he said left her with a permanent brain injury.
"All they were told is that they would be paid the minimum wage for the hours that they were there and an extra $25 for the use of their vehicle," Smith said.
Cedillo reportedly was sitting at the wheel of her car, being towed by another vehicle on a closed stretch of the Cline Avenue Bridge extension. The towing cable snapped, slicing through the windshield and striking Cedillo's head.
According to the complaint, an improperly welded towing bracket separated from a stunt car and flew through Cedillo's windshield, causing massive head injuries. Smith said his firm's research shows the same stunt failed the day before Cedillo was injured, damaging several stunt cars. The complaint states towing brackets were placed on new stunt cars by Ryerson Inc.
Calls to representatives for Ryerson Inc. were not returned Tuesday.
Smith said the welds for the new towing brackets used to construct the new cars not only were poorly done but "done on the fly."
Smith showed a series of photos that reconstructed the accident scene and then played a video of the actual accident, obtained from radaronline.com.
At the time of the accident, Cedillo was a bank teller and attended Morton College in Cicero, Ill., said her brother, Adolfo Romo. The lawsuit is filed in Romo's name because of his sister's disability and because he is guardian of her estate. Romo said his sister wanted to be an actress and this was not her first time as a movie extra.
Romo, 36, said his sister can give hand signals and communicate when she is in pain, but does not remember anything related to the accident.
"Sometimes she gives a thumb's up," Romo said.
Cedillo was discharged from the Loyola Medical Center Intensive Care Unit last week and remains paralyzed on the left side of her body. Smith said he sued for an amount in excess of $50,000 but estimates Cedillo's medical expenses far exceed that amount.
"She has motor function deficit as a result of the brain injury," Smith said. Smith said that after leaving Loyola Medical Center, Cedillo was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He anticipates she will remain there for at least three to four more months.
"We are all terribly sorry that this accident occurred," Paramount said in a statement released Tuesday shortly after the news conference to announce the lawsuit. "Our thoughts, prayers and best wishes are with Gabriela, her family and loved ones. The production will continue to provide all the help we can to Gabriela and her family during this difficult time."
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