AMC has been found "not to be negligent" in the wrongful death civil suit involving The Walking Dead stuntman who died in a fall on set. The jury delivered the decision Thursday after two days of deliberation.
John Bernecker died after an accident on the set of The Walking Dead while filming a fight scene for Season 8 in July 2017. He fell and sustained massive injuries after missing a landing pad. His mother, Susan Bernecker, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his estate in January of 2018, seeking between $40 million and $100 million in total damages. Though the jury ruled AMC was not negligent, the estate of Bernecker was awarded $8.6 million in civil damages, Deadline reports.
"There is no winning or losing in this situation," AMC said in a statement released to TV Guide and other outlets after the verdict. "This was a terrible and tragic accident, and our sympathies continue to go out to John Bernecker's family and friends. The set of The Walking Dead is safe and is managed to meet or exceed all industry standards and guidelines related to stunts and 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."
Bernecker's attorney provided the following statement to TV Guide in respose to the verdict: "John was 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. 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."
Former The Walking Dead series regular Austin Amelio (Dwight), who was also on the balcony and witnessed the accident, was named as a defendant in the case. The jury found Amelio to have "zero" responsibility for Bernecker's death in the suit. "I saw the whole thing, I was in complete and utter shock," Amelio told the jury during his testimony in court. "It was the worst day of my life."
The Walking Dead Season 10 returns Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.