The mother of the stunt performer who died after an accident on the set of The Walking Dead last summer has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against AMC and other parties involved in the production of the episode being shot when John Bernecker fatally fell, Deadline reports.
Susan Bernecker, who has been speaking out about what she perceives as a lack of regard for stunt performers' safety in the entertainment industry, filed the suit in Georgia state court on Tuesday.
"The AMC Defendants orchestrated and enforced a pattern of filming and producing The Walking Dead cheaply, and, ultimately, unsafely," the suit alleges.
In addition to the network, Bernecker's suit names actor Austin Amelio, who was filming a scene with John Bernecker; production company Stalwart Films, the director and stunt coordinator for the episode, and other companies associated with the series.
The suit alleges that AMC put pressure on primary production company Stalwart Films to produce the show as cheaply as possible, which led to an "unreasonably low budget for stunt performances for Season 8 of The Walking Dead and Episode 807," the episode being shot when Bernecker fell. The suit alleges that the stunt — a 22-foot fall from a balcony — was never rehearsed before filming; that there was insufficient safety on-set, including a lack of spotters and padding on the ground; that Bernecker was paired with Amelio, an actor inexperienced with stunt performance, instead of another trained stunt performer; and there was no ambulance or medical transport at the filming location, which went against industry standards. The full complaint can be read here.
"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," AMC said in a statement to Deadline on Wednesday. "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."
Earlier this month, OSHA fined Stalwart Films the maximum federally allowable penalty for "failing to protect employees from fall hazards," which only amounted to $12,675. The damages Bernecker is seeking are not specified.
AMC is currently embroiled in a separate Walking Dead-related suit from creator Frank Darabont over fees he claims he is owed.