After more than a year since the family of stuntman John Bernecker filed a lawsuit against AMC for negligence after he passed away, a Georgia judge's recent ruling has paved the way for the case to continue. After Bernecker died on the set of The Walking Dead in 2017, his family filed the lawsuit against the network early last year. But AMC's attorneys filed a motion this summer that argued they couldn't be found liable for negligence because under Georgia law, Bernecker assumed the risk of performing the stunt and that he was in control of the circumstances surrounding it.
According to a report from Variety, Judge Emily Brantley rejected that claim and determined that a jury would decide whether the network bypassed certain safety precautions on the production, leading to Bernecker's death. The trial is now set to begin on December 9th.
AMC's response to Judge Brantley's ruling disagreed with the decision but respected the motion for the trial to move forward.
“This was a tragic accident,” AMC's statement said. “While we continue to believe our motions for summary judgment were appropriate and supported by the facts in this case and the law, we respect the Court’s decision — without making any determination on the merits of either side’s arguments — to allow the case to proceed.”
In AMC's filing, the company's attorneys stated that 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.
In a filing for summary judgement, AMC attempted to prove they were not responsible for the production, and thus the accident, because another company was overseeing those duties.
“There is no evidence to support a finding that the AMC Defendants owed Bernecker a legal duty of any kind,” the company's attorneys argued in the motion. “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 passed away on July 12, 2017 while filming the 8th season of The Walking Dead.