Last July, stuntman John Bernecker was gravely injured on the set of AMC’s The Walking Dead, after which the show temporarily halted production. Bernecker eventually died from the injuries he sustained after falling “more than 20 feet off a balcony onto a concrete floor.” SAG-AFTRA immediately began investigating the accident, and now Deadline reports that Bernecker’s mother has filed a wrongful death suit against AMC.
Susan Bernecker’s suit asserts that “production of season 8 of The Walking Dead, like seasons before it, had an emphasis on keeping production budgets low and profits high,” indicating that cost-cutting measures meant the set’s safety precautions did not meet industry standards during the filming of episode 7 of season 8. And, as “the ultimate decision-makers for The Walking Dead production, the AMC Defendants are each independently responsible for the failure of The Walking Dead production to take reasonable safety precautions to protect its performer, John Bernecker.”
Walking Dead production company Stalwart Films was fined $12,675 by OSHA late last year for “failing to protect employees from falling hazards,” but the lawsuit singles out several instances of negligence, ranging from the lack of padding on the part of the set where her son was supposed to land to a fellow stuntman ignoring instructions not to push the late Bernecker during his jump stunt.
AMC issued a statement in response to the filing on Wednesday, insisting that it takes “the safety of our employees on all of our sets extremely seriously, and meet or exceed industry safety standards. Out of respect for the family, we will have no further comment on this litigation.”