The family of The Walking Dead stuntman John Bernecker was awarded an $8.9 million dollar settlement following his death on the set of the AMC show in July 2017, as reported by Deadline.
Bernecker died following a failed stunt in which he was supposed to climb over a balcony and drop to a safety pad below. However, according to the findings of the subsquent investigation and civil case, Bernecker's death occurred due to a change in how he performed the stunt - holding on to the railing of the balcony longer than planned and changing his trajectory to miss the safety pad. As a result, the jury found that AMC and others named in the suit are not liable for his death.
Bernecker's mother Susan filed the suit in 2017, initially seeking $40-100m in damages and naming AMC, The Walking Dead actor Austin Amelio, Stalwart Films, and several production crews as defendants. The suit alleged that Bernecker's death was preventable, and occurred as the result of several failures to adhere to safety procedures.
“John was a remarkably talented stunt professional who had an incredibly bright future in the film industry,” said Jeff Harris, attorney for Bernecker's estate in response to the verdict. “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. 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.”
“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,” said AMC in their own response to the verdict. “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,” the company asserted in language very similar to past statements on the matter. “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.”
AMC is not expected by Deadline to appeal the decision.