A Georgia jury has awarded $8.6 million to the family of a stuntman killed during the production of an episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead in 2017.
The Daily Report on Thursday reported the verdict came after a weeklong trial before Gwinnett County State Court Judge Emily Brantley. Jurors began deliberations late Tuesday and handed up the verdict shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday.
Lawyers for defendants AMC and production company Stalwart Films had argued that John Bernecker’s death in a fall from a balcony during a staged fight was an unforeseen accident that happened when the trained stuntman missed a landing pad 25 feet below.
Bernecker’s parents, Susan and Hagen Bernecker, sued AMC, Stalwart and several other defendants involved in the show’s production, claiming they skimped on safety measures for financial and scheduling concerns.
In a statement, plaintiffs attorney Jeffrey Harris said the 33-year-old “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.
“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,” he said.
Jackson Dial, an attorney for the defendants, said they planned to appeal.