Wife of ‘American Horror Story’ driver sues over COVID death

January 9, 2023 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — The wife of a late Massachusetts man is suing the companies involved in the 2021 production of “American Horror Story” on Cape Cod, alleging their lack of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 led to his death.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Boston, Patricia Woodward, of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, alleges that Twentieth Television, Ryan Murphy Productions and the Walt Disney Co. failed to follow their own COVID-19 safety protocols when filming in Provincetown in early 2021.

Paul Woodward worked as a passenger van driver, shuttling crew between the hotel and various filming sites. He tested negative when he began working on the project in February 2021. He left the project for the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms in mid-March. He died of COVID-19 on April 18. He was 67, according to an obituary.

“He passed away on the morning of our 25th anniversary,” wife Patricia Woodward said in an interview with NBC10 Boston. “So that day, instead of going out to dinner or having champagne, I had to go to the funeral home and look for a casket for him.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for wrongful death, recklessness and gross negligence, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Patricia Woodward says in the complaint that the filming of the segment of “American Horror Story” in Provincetown occurred before the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines and while state and local restrictions remained in place.

During the filming, the production companies brought in hundreds of workers, who were housed in hotels.

The defendants’ COVID-19 protocols were supposed to include accurate and frequent testing, safe distancing, safe transport between filming sites, sanitation or work areas, and the use of masks and protective equipment, according to the complaint.

The crew, actors, contractors and other employees “openly flouted and violated the COVID-19 safety protocols,” and the companies failed to take “adequate corrective action to enforce compliance,” the complaint says.

For example, Paul Woodward was assigned to drive a van that did not have a “spit shield” or other protective barriers to separate him from passengers and protect against the transmission of the virus, the complaint says. Other vans did have spit shields, it says.

There was also supposed to be safe distancing, occupancy limits and masking requirements in Woodward’s van, but the rule was ignored by passengers and not enforced by the defendants, according to the complaint.