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The Walking Dead: AMC asks Court to Not Make it Pay $8.6 Million Verdict in Stuntman’s Death

Published on October 23rd, 2020 | Updated on October 23rd, 2020 | By FanFest

AMC defended the case against allegations that it was at fault for the death of stuntman, John Bernecker, while on the set of The Walking Dead. The case went to the jury’s hands after the completion of closing arguments and a lengthy trial.  The jury awarded Bernecker’s family $8.6 million dollars.  Now, AMC is asking the court to overturn that verdict so it doesn’t have to pay the award.

Bernecker “was going to live 40 to 50 more years,” Attorney Jeff Harris said in the closing arguments. “What is a year of life worth? …It’s one to two million dollars per year. That is the way the law thinks you should calculate damages, and it is consistent with how we view life in our society.”  The jury awarded the figure after hearing the case and determining that Bernecker was, in fact, an independent contractor to AMC, not an employee, at the time of his death.

Yesterday, AMC Networks urged a Georgia appeals court to erase an $8.6 million jury verdict in the death of The Walking Dead stuntman, John Bernecker.

AMC, along with several other entities, appealed to the Third Division of the Georgia Court of Appeals, arguing that Bernecker should have been considered an employee, not an independent contractor. That would have forced Bernecker’s parents to go through Georgia’s workers’ compensation system, rather than getting a civil judgment.

Bernecker’s attorney urged the appellate judges not to second-guess the jury’s decision after heairng the case.  Harris argued to the appellate court that Bernecker received a 1099 tax form, was paid through his loan-out company, was admitted on set as a “visitor,” and worked on a day-by-day basis for various productions.

“All of that screams ‘independent contractor,’” Harris said.  Harris also raised questions about whether Bernecker even signed the contract, noting that it was dated on a date when Bernecker was in the hospital in a coma.

“It was admittedly a complicated, convoluted factual mess that the jury had to sort out,” Harris argued. “The jury concluded he was an independent contractor.”

Should the appellate court overturn the verdict, there are several things that could happen. Given the court’s findings, there could be an entirely new trial, the court could choose not to decide on the matter and uphold the jury’s decision, or the court could issue some sort of decision that only partially rejects the jury’s decision, forcing the defendants to still be liable.  Lastly, whatever the appellate court decides could still then be appealed to Georgia’s Supreme Court, making this case continue to linger in its court system.

Either way, we’re sure this is difficult for all party’s involved, knowing how close the cast and crew of The Walking Dead are. But, even more importantly, as this continues it’s difficult and painful for Bernecker’s family who just want closure for their son’s death, a prolonged court battle isn’t what anyone wants to see.

What are your thoughts on the trial? Let us know in the comments below.

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12 thoughts on “The Walking Dead: AMC asks Court to Not Make it Pay $8.6 Million Verdict in Stuntman’s Death

  1. Personally I think he was a stunt man and being so took daily risk witch is and was part of a stuntman’s Life/career. Therefore knowingly went into that career with the knowledge that it could cause serious consequences witch may or may not lead to serious bodily harm and or death. There for unless it is at the hands of serious negligence that causes his injuries or death .His Compensation should be at the employee benifit rate.

  2. Pay the family, and let them move on, just like everyone on set did. The way I see it, what is 8 million dollars, compared to how much Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, and the rest of the cast getting paid? They moved on, made families, and Bernecker will never get a chance at any of it. His family is devastated, so let them grieve in peace without having to deal with AMC anymore.

  3. As an “independent contractor”, it seems that he would have insured himself. He was hired to do stunt work, which is obviously dangerous, I would also question the “visitor” status. If he did not sign a waiver to come onto the set, then shame on AMC. It is sad for this family that lost their son and no amount of money would be sufficient. Life is precious, money cannot replace. It is also sad for the cast of “The Walking Dead”. They worked very hard to deliver an awesome series that captured a high percentage of the worlds population. Either way, this family should get closure.

  4. He knews the risks when he decided to be a stuntman, actors dont do these dangerous stunts for this reason, his own fault for being a daredevil.

  5. AMC should absolutely pay. Bernecker was an independent contractor. AMC has way more money than the state of Georgia, which already gives huge tax breaks to productions like TWD.

  6. Honestly knowing AMC’s reputation that they have gained over recent years and how TWD is ramping down I do not believe they can afford to take the risk of losing the reputation they have built for themselves. What once was the channel where musty old movies go to die and a never ending stream of John Wayne movies that only attracted the most seasoned viewers. AMC had nothing that appealed to the younger viewers. Plus, with the drama that has been circling Lauren Cohan, Andrew Lincoln, and Norman Reedus over lack or inequality of pay and AMC’s choice to continue the show their own way instead of following the story line graphic novels causing them to tank their viewership. Them choosing to not pay this man’s family will not only be seen as petty but will show that they do not value the life of someone who gave their life on the set of their show. A show with a cast that they want to portray as a “family” and are “close”. It would just prove that everything they said they stood for is a lie.

  7. Except responsibility and leave the family alone. Somebody died making them money, greedy ass AMC. With all the money that set makes and your going to fight about 8 million dollars to a young person that died and will never be able to have a life.

  8. I mean if it’s not they fault sorry but why should they pay out he a stunt man he no the danger doing it I mean how he even die again ?????

  9. You guys are making millions at AMC. Just pay mans family an keep moving forward. Don’t let this tarnish your image. The man is dead” Enough Said”

  10. It’s so sad but being a stunt man is a dangerous job and he should have been.insurer I don’t think they should have to pay that amount a bit yea to show they cared but he did choose a job in which danger is speciict

  11. I believe the cast and everyone involved should be helping this family. I love the walking dead. The entire show is about doing what’s right ❤️

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