The Walking Dead: Family of stuntman awarded $8.6m after he fell to his death

John Bernecker suffered severe head injuries on set while filming the show’s eighth season

Ellie Harrison
Friday 20 December 2019 12:13
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A jury has awarded $8.6m to the family of The Walking Dead stuntman, John Bernecker, who fell to his death on set in 2017.

Broadcaster AMC Networks was found “not to be negligent” in the death of the stuntman, but Bernecker’s family was awarded the money in civil damages. There were no additional punitive damages.

A total of six days of argument and testimony were heard in the case, including a frame-by-frame breakdown of video of the accident.

When the accident occurred during the filming of season eight, Bernecker was performing in a fight scene in which he was supposed to fall off a building, landing on a pad 21 feet below.

As he flipped over, however, he unexpectedly grabbed onto the railing with his left hand, changing his trajectory and causing him to swing back towards the wall and then fall underneath the balcony.

Bernecker missed the centre of the pad by nine feet, landing on his head on the cement floor. He died in hospital two days later.

“John was a remarkably talented stunt professional who had an incredibly bright future in the film industry,” said attorney Jeffrey Harris, who represented Bernecker’s mother Susan in the case.

“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.”

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AMC also issued its own statement, insisting the production was safe and sending its condolences to Bernecker’s 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,” the company said.

“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.”

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