HBO Sued over Horse Death ‘Coverup’ on Set of ‘Luck’

Luck, Dustin Hoffman, HBO, Michael Mann, Nick Nolte, American Humane Association, Barbara Casey suing HBO.

A promotional poster for the HBO series that starred Dustin Hoffman and was produced by Michael Mann.

A lawsuit first published by The Hollywood Reporter alleges that HBO covered up the horrible treatment of animals on the set of their now-canceled series Luck in collusion with the American Humane Society.

Plaintiff Barbara Casey, a 13-year veteran of the American Humane Association, is suing the AHA for wrongful dismissal. She claims she was terminated as result of her attempts to report the deplorable conditions that horses were put through during filming. Casey’s role at the AHA was director of production at the organization’s film and television unit.

She is also suing HBO and Luck‘s producers, Stewart Productions, for their role in an alleged cover-up over animal treatment and death.

Throughout the above document, Casey makes several claims about cruelty to animals, including that horses were deliberately misidentified so as to cover up physical health defects, defects that made them unsuitable for the required racing scenes.

The show was canceled after the death of a third horse in March 2012. HBO first temporarily suspended the filming of the series, which was in its second season, before canceling it on March 14 saying it:

maintained the highest safety standards throughout production … accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future.

But Casey is saying that there were other horse deaths that were successfully covered up in a collusion between HBO and the AHA.

One of the deceased horses, Marc’s Shaddow, a former racehorse, was allegedly proven in an autopsy to have chronic arthritis, a condition that made racing the horse very dangerous. Another horse that died, Hometrader, Casey claims she was instructed:

…not to document [Hometrader’s] death because he was killed during a summer hiatus from filming and therefore ‘did not count.’

HBO made this statement at the time of the cancellation of the series:

Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen, and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.

We are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses and everyone involved in its creation.