GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga., December 26, 2019 – A Georgia jury has awarded the family of a stuntman who suffered fatal injuries after an on-set fall $8.6 million. The jury determined that AMC was not negligent in the matter but decided to hold production company Stalwart Films and the show itself liable.
Specifically, the jury apportioned 40 percent of liability to Stalwart, 25 percent to TWD Productions, 15 percent to executive producer Tom Luse, 10 percent to assistant director Jeff January, and 4 percent to Marty Simons, the stunt coordinator. The victim, John Bernecker, was determined to be 6 percent liable for the accident.
According to reports, Berkener suffered major head injuries after a stunt went wrong on set in 2017. Berkener was supposed to fall headfirst over a balcony onto a crash pad, but rather than falling out and away from the balcony, he fell underneath it. As a result, he fell 22 feet and missed the crash pad by a few inches, landing on his head and neck.
The jury issued the verdict after a weeklong trial in state court that took place before Gwinnett County State Court Judge Emily Brantley. The victim’s parents, who brought the suit, argued that the defendants in the lawsuit had cut corners on certain safety measures and that their negligence led to the accident.
In a statement, attorney for the plaintiffs Jeff Harris described the late stuntman as “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,” continued Mr. Harris. “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.”