The Walking Dead: Jury awards $8.6m to family after stuntman’s death

John BerneckerImage copyright

A US jury has awarded $8.6m (£6.6m) to the family of a late stuntman who died following an accident while filming an episode of TV series The Walking Dead.

John Bernecker, 33, died in hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, two days after falling onto a concrete floor in 2017.

His family sued AMC Networks, which makes the zombie drama, and several other parties involved in the show.

The jury in Georgia awarded civil damages to the family, but decided that AMC Networks was not negligent.

  • Walking Dead stuntman dies in fall

Susan and Hagen Bernecker had accused AMC of cutting corners and ignoring its own safety protocols.

During a six-day trial, the jury were shown a frame-by-frame breakdown of a video of the accident, which occurred while Bernecker was playing a scene in which he was supposed to fall over a railing and off a balcony, landing on a pad around 21ft (6.5m) below.

Lawyers for defendants AMC and production company Stalwart Films argued his death was an unforeseen accident, which happened after he missed the pad.

‘Entirely preventable’

But attorney Jeff Harris, representing Bernecker’s parents, claimed his death was “entirely preventable”.

“There are a zillion different ways that this stunt could have been thrown off, but there just wasn’t any planning for it,” he said, according to Deadline.

AMC said The Walking Dead set met industry standards on 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,” the company added.

Variety reported that the jury found Stalwart Films shared responsibility for the accident with three members of the production crew, Bernecker himself, and TWD 8, which was described as an AMC Networks entity.

At the time of Bernecker’s death, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Negan on the show, paid tribute on Twitter, writing: “Deep sorrow today, and for every tomorrow.

“Love, respect, and condolences to johns family, and friends. He will be forever missed.”

Bernecker’s other stuntman credits included Black Panther, Logan and The Fantastic Four.

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