The Family Of A "Walking Dead" Stunt Performer Killed In 2017 Has Been Awarded $8.6 Million In Damages
"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," the family's attorney said.
The family of a stunt performer killed on the set of The Walking Dead was awarded $8.6 million in damages by a Georgia jury on Thursday.
John Bernecker died in 2017 after suffering major head injuries due to a stunt gone wrong while on set for the AMC series' eighth season.
Bernecker was supposed to attempt a stunt in which he fell from a balcony and landed on a crash pad — but he missed the place where he was supposed to land by a few inches, falling 22 feet to the ground on his head and neck.
After two days of deliberation, following a seven-day trial that began in early December, a jury in Atlanta found that the network was not liable or negligent in Bernecker's death.
The jury did find the show's production companies, Stalwart Films and TWD Productions VIII, as well as certain production members on the show to be responsible for Bernecker's death, as well as the stunt double himself.
The wrongful death suit was brought against the show when Bernecker's mother, Susan Bernecker, filed a claim against the network last January.
In a previously released statement, AMC maintained that “the set of The Walking Dead is safe, and is regularly evaluated to ensure that it adheres to all industry standards and guidelines related to stunts and stunt safety, notwithstanding this very sad and isolated accident."
Attorney Jeff Harris, who represented the Bernecker family, said, "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."
Harris added, "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."
According to his IMDb page, Bernecker had been performing stunts since 2009, having worked on big-name projects including Get Out, The Fate of the Furious, Logan, the Hunger Games series, and 22 Jump Street.