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Both sides rest Friday in wrongful death civil trail against CSX

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Sarah Jones wrongful death case one step closer to jury deliberations. (Credit: Harris Lowry Manton LLP)

On Friday at the Chatham County Courthouse, it took just a few hours before both sides rested their cases in the Sarah Jones wrongful death lawsuit against CSX.

CSX attorneys were able to question a witness in the civil trial for the first time since the start of the trial.

That witness was the Location Manager for the Midnight Rider movie, Charles Baxter.

“You did not have permission to film on CSX's tracks?" asked CSX attorney. In which Baxter simply replied, “No.”

The attorneys for CSX peppered Baxter with questions throughout the day claiming they never got CSX approval to be on the Doctortown trestle in Wayne County back in February 2014.

“What was their response?" asked CSX attorney. Baxter replied “That they were going to go down and try and get the shot done any way."

That prompted the CSX attorney to make a declarative statement to Baxter, saying “So they were all aware at this point that CSX denied permission for you to film this scene on this property.”

The "they" they're referencing is the Film Allman crew.

Jones’ attorney Jeff Harris saw it differently in his questioning, asking “If someone were to say that CSX expressly denied in writing twice that the film crew permission to shoot on the doctor town trestle that would not be a true statement would it sir"?

Baxter replied “No.”

CSX attorney’s said the film crew did have a viable alternative trestle in Macon to shoot.

“Did you believe, based on those conversations, that you could get permission to film at the Macon trestle? Baxter replied yes and then an exchange occurred between the two men, to which the attorney asked “Then why was the trestle in Macon not used?"

Baxter replied, “I don't know the answer to that question.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Jeff Harris, noted that CSX seemed to be cooperative in their actions and cited an email that was entered into evidence.

“You will be receiving a call today from Peggy Smith with CSX, they are going to do their best to make this happen by February 20,” said Harris.

The Jones family was able to have the last word in court Friday through their attorney in an attempt to show negligence on the part of CSX.

“Did anybody from CSX and say 'hey we want to make it abundantly clear we don't want you to misinterpret this email we want you to understand clearly don't go out there or you will be trespassers'? No one called you and said that right?” asked Harris.

In which Baxter replied, “That's correct.”

Judge Gregory Sapp released the jury for the weekend so that he and the attorney’s would hash out what is known as Charge Conference.

Essentially that is what will be agreed upon by all parties regarding what exactly would be placed on the verdict form.

After a few hours Friday afternoon of debate, Judge Sapp said he would take everything conveyed by both sides under consideration and would email both parties his decision. Both sides agreed that punitive damages and funeral expenses for the Jones family are off the table, but pain and suffering as well as decedents loss of life will be considered.

Trial will resume 9 a.m. Monday, when closing arguments are expected.