AMC was found “not to be negligent ” in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of John Bernecker, a stuntman for “The Walking Dead” who died during filming of the show in July 2017. Bernecker’s parents were awarded $8.6 million.
“There is no winning or losing in this situation, this was a terrible and tragic accident and our sympathies continue to go out to John Bernecker’s family and friends,” AMC Networks said in a statement. “The set of ‘The Walking Dead’ is safe and is managed to meet or exceed all industry standards and guidelines related to stunts and stunt safety. That has been the case across the production of 10 seasons and more than 150 episodes, and it continues to be the case today, notwithstanding this very sad and isolated accident.”
Bernecker fell to his death on the set of “The Walking Dead” in Georgia on July 12. The damages are fully covered by insurance, an individual with knowledge of the case tells TheWrap.
“John was a remarkably talented stunt professional who had an incredibly bright future in the film industry. My sincere hope is this verdict sends a clear message regarding the need to both elevate and strictly adhere to industry safety standards every day, on every shoot, on every film set,” said Jeff Harris, partner at Harris Lowry Manton, who was lead attorney representing Susan Bernecker. “John’s tragic and preventable death happened as a result of a series of safety-related failures. Learning from these failures will go a long way in making sure that similar tragedies do not happen to another performer or another family.”
His mother said the show’s low budget led to inadequate safety precautions and her 33-year-old son’s death. In the lawsuit she said AMC Networks Inc, “orchestrated and enforced a pattern of filming and producing ‘The Walking Dead’ cheaply and, ultimately, unsafely.”
Bernecker says the show’s network pressured Stalwart Films, the production company, to cut corners on safety measures in order to keep the budget and expenses to a minimum, leading to her son’s death due to injuries he sustained in a fall on the set in Senoia, just south of Atlanta.
The wrongful death suit also named the episode’s director, stunt coordinator and an actor who was shooting a scene with Bernecker, as well as other companies associated with AMC and Stalwart Films.
Stalwart films was hit with the maximum fine from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSHA issued a “serious citation” and proposed the maximum amount of penalties — $12,675 — “for the company’s failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards.”