As long as there have been actors in Hollywood, there have been stuntmen to do things deemed too dangerous for the actor. Stunt people have also been injured or killed on sets. The 1980s was a particularly dangerous decade for stuntmen and women. Industry regulations were improved, but now the huge increase in content that is streamed has led to production studios cutting corners. Though there have been few stunt deaths, each one makes headlines. The jump in the number of productions and the fact that they are now scattered across the country may lead to unqualified stunt coordinators and stunt performers being hired. As the LA Times reports, the wrongful death trial concerning stuntman John Bernecker began in Georgia.
33-year-old John Bernecker was on the set of the hit AMC show “The Walking Dead” in 2017. At the time of his death, he was performing a 22-foot fall from a balcony and landed where there was no padding or protection.
Bernecker’s mother, Susan Bernecker brought a wrongful death lawsuit against AMC, the producer of the television show. The trial began on Tuesday, December 10th and is expected to last 10 days.
The number of stunt worker deaths has declined overall, thanks to industry standards and protections. Still, in 2014, Sarah Jones was killed in Georgia while performing a stunt on the set of “Midnight Rider.” Her family was awarded $11.2 million after filing a wrongful death suit.
In 2018, Joi “S.J.” Harris was killed performing a stunt on the set of “Deadpool 2” in Vancouver, Canada. Harris had no stunt experience when she was hired to do the stunt.
In Bernecker’s lawsuit, she alleges that there was no ambulance on site. It took 30 minutes for Bernecker to be airlifted for medical treatment.
An attorney for AMC alleges that the accident was the fault of Bernecker. He stated that Bernecker hung onto the railing, changing the trajectory of his fall, which is the reason he missed the padded area that had been placed for his fall.
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