Last July’s tragic accident on the Senioa, Georgia, set of The Walking Dead claimed the life of 33-year-old stuntman John Bernecker. Following a two-story fall onto a concrete floor, Bernecker died days later.
After being dealt the maximum OSHA fine for the stuntman’s death, production company Stalwart Films joins AMC Networks Inc., among others, as defendants in a wrongful death suit filed by Bernecker’s mother, Susan, according to court documents obtained by Deadline.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Georgia’s Gwinnett County State Court, names various companies and individuals among 13 defendants, including episode director Larry Teng, first assistant director Jeffery January, unit production manager Tom Luse, key second assistant director Matthew Goodwin, stunt coordinator Monty Simons, and actor Austin Amelio.
The lawsuit claims that “the AMC Defendants orchestrated and enforced a pattern of filming and producing The Walking Dead cheaply and, ultimately, unsafely." It alleges that AMC pressured Stalwart Films with a prioritization of “profit over safety” to “maintain unreasonably low budgets and expenses,” which purportedly led to inadequate precautions on stunts.
The suit goes on to allege that Amelio touched Bernecker during the stunt, which altered his momentum and changed his landing.
Responding to the lawsuit, AMC said in a statement to SYFY WIRE: "Our thoughts and prayers are and have been with John Bernecker, his family, friends and everyone touched by this tragic accident since the moment it occurred. We take 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."
The suit seeks punitive and compensatory damages "determined from the enlightened conscience of the jury," in addition to attorney fees.