The Walking Dead is gearing up for what could potentially be its most action-packed season yet, with Rick and Negan's All Out War just over the horizon. But things sadly got far darker behind the scenes early on in the production shoot, as well-known stuntman John Bernecker fell from a high balcony and later died from his injuries. Now, the situation is getting more complicated, as the late stuntman's mother has retained the services of attorney Jeffrey R. Harris, who was successful in the wrongful-death lawsuit for the biopic project Midnight Rider's highly publicized death.
Susan Bernecker, still presumably mourning her son's July 12 death, hired Jeff Harris this week, and according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an official legal filing is expected to go public in the next few weeks, after the case has been examined. It's obviously impossible to know what will happen, either from the Bernecker side or from AMC's side, without a lawsuit laying things out, but Harris' most recent courtroom victory is definitely worth considering here.
Jeff Harris was an attorney for Richard and Elisabeth Jones, the parents of Sarah Jones, the second camera assistant (for the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider) who was killed during the first day of production after being struck by a CSX freight train. (Others were also injured, though Jones was the only death.) Beyond the convictions of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing that were laid on the filmmakers for not getting legal permission to film on the railroad trestle where the production was set up, the short-lived project also faced several different lawsuits. Harris led the Jones parents in a suit that placed blame on not only the film producers and production companies, but also on CSX for not investigating the reported sighting of the film crew around the tracks.
That particular lawsuit was filed back in May 2014, and it was only in July of this year that the jury awarded Richard and Elisabeth Jones $11.2 million. It was purely a coincidence that this ruling happened in the week that followed John Bernecker's on-set accident, but one that could be fortuitous for Susan Bernecker, depending on how things play out.
The first stunt-related death in the U.S. in 17 years, John Bernecker's accident caused The Walking Dead to shut down production while an investigation was sanctioned. While on a balcony around 30 feet in the air, Bernecker was reportedly rehearsing a fight with a fellow crewman when he slipped and plunged to the ground, failing to land on the safety pad that was set up just nearby. Though he survived the fall, he was later pronounced brain dead in the hospital and was taken off of life support.
Time will obviously tell how things will go down for Susan Bernecker and whoever ends up being on the other side of that potential filing, assuming that Jeff Harris thinks there's enough there to move forward with something official. And it'll likely be a while before we hear anything else, considering how long it takes for high-profile cases like this to go through the legal system. And it might take even longer, since AMC has some other lawsuits to deal with involving The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead will make its Season 8 debut on AMC on Sunday, October 22, at 9:00 p.m. To see when other shows are heading to the small screen soon, head to our summer premiere schedule.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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