Georgia Judge Emily Brantley has now determined a jury will decide whether the AMC network bypassed safety precautions on the set of "The Walking Dead", July 2017, leading to the death of stunt performer John Bernecker:
In AMC's filing, the company's attorneys stated Bernecker assumed all risks associated with the stunt and therefore they were not liable for the accident that resulted in his passing.
"While his death is undoubtedly tragic, under controlling Georgia law, the affirmative defense of assumption of the risk bars Plaintiffs' claims against each of the Defendants because Bernecker, a professional stuntman, understood and appreciated the dangers and risks associated with the high fall and voluntarily attempted the stunt without coercion", the AMC attorneys wrote. "There is no evidence to support a finding that the AMC Defendants owed Bernecker a legal duty of any kind. The AMC Defendants did not have any relationship, contractual or otherwise, with Bernecker. The AMC Defendants also did not direct or control the method and manner in which Bernecker's stunt was performed."
Bernecker was filming a scene with series regular Austin Amelio requiring him to fall approximately 22 feet off a balcony onto a safety cushion below. But Bernecker landed on his head and neck on the concrete, missing the cushion by 'just inches' according to assistant director Matthew Goodwin. Bernecker was airlifted to an Atlanta medical center, where he was placed on a ventilator. His family opted to turn the ventilator off. The Coweta County Coroner’s office listed his official cause of death as blunt force trauma.The 'Coweta County Sheriff’s Office', 'OSHA' and 'SAG-AFTRA' investigated the incident.
With over 90 stunt performer credits, Bernecker had just worked on Dwayne Johnson's "Rampage" and "Marvel's Black Panther".