by Irvin Muchnick
Since 2011, Concussion Inc. has been following the serial legal story of Leslie Hoffman’s battle to be treated fairly by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) on what seems like an open-and-shut insurance claim for traumatic brain injuries sustained in a career as a movie stuntwoman. (In perhaps her most iconic screen moment, Hoffman was the body double for Queen Elizabeth, sliding across a banquet table when Leslie Nielsen, as Sergeant Frank Drebin, knocked her out of the line of fire of an antique Revolutionary War musket in 1998’s Naked Gun.)
Seven years ago we first told you about Hoffman’s dispute with SAG over her occupational disability. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=4337.
In 2015 we followed up with a pointer to what the movie industry news site Deadline Hollywood called SAG’s “doubling down on their campaign to deny Hoffman benefits” despite the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that the union and its insurer had failed to give her a fair hearing. Like the National Football League, the industry wishes to duck accountability for the physical and mental health toll of its workers. Unfortunately, the SAG union too often treats its stunt-double member category as second-class citizens. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=10177.
Last week Hoffman’s lawyer, Charles Fleishman, was back at the Ninth Circuit to argue against the capricious termination of her disability pension from the SAG Producers Pension Plan under ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974). Fleishman pointed out that SAG had cut her off on the grounds that she was starting to generate income on her own again. In fact, Hoffman’s lone royalty check over the last decade and a half, for all of $332.86, turns out to have been for a movie shot back in 1999.
I again recommend the full coverage of Deadline Hollywood. There’s a good overview from last year under the headline “SAG Records Dispute Claim That Stuntwoman Worked While Receiving Disability Pay,” http://deadline.com/2017/06/stuntwoman-leslie-hoffman-sag-pension-and-health-plans-dispute-disability-pay-1202117113/.
Attorney Fleshman’s oral argument before what appeared a sympathetic Ninth Circuit panel can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOHVit8dRcE.
And if you want to see Leslie Hoffman in Leslie Nielsen’s slack-jawed embrace, on the banquet table in Naked Gun, be sure to click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWO7QAOnOJU.