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Mom of 'The Walking Dead' stuntman killed on set files wrongful death suit

Veteran stuntman John Bernecker died from injuries suffered in a fall during an accident on the set of 'The Walking Dead' on July 12, 2017. (Photo courtesy: IMDB.com)

ATLANTA (AP) — The mother of a 33-year-old stuntman who fell to his death on the set of "The Walking Dead" in Georgia has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the show's network and other parties.

John Bernecker died July 12 from injuries suffered in a fall on the set in Senoia, about 35 miles south of Atlanta. It was the first death of a stuntman in nearly two decades.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday by Susan Bernecker in Gwinnett County State Court names AMC Networks Inc., production company Stalwart Films and others.

The lawsuit says AMC "orchestrated and enforced a pattern of filming and producing 'The Walking Dead' cheaply and, ultimately, unsafely." It says AMC pressured Stalwart Films to keep budgets unreasonably low, leading Stalwart to cut corners on safety precautions.

An AMC spokesman didn't immediately respond Wednesday to an email seeking comment.

11Alive's Natisha Lance spoke to one stunt professional, Paul Lacovara, who said it's generally safe business.

"Our whole job is about safety, because it we're not safe, we're not coming home."

In addition to AMC, the suit also names Austin Amelio, the actor who was with Bernecker's on the balcony before the stuntman's fall. According to the lawsuit, Amelio was supposed to "push" him off the balcony without actually touching Bernecker during the stunt performance. However, Amelio not only allegedly touch Bernecker, but also grabbed the back of his clothing, changing "the trajectory of his fall."

Defense attorney Randy Kessler said it is a tough case, but he believes it will end in a settlement rather than going to trial.

"There will be offers made, the only question is what does the plaintiff want and what does the defense want to pay," he posed.

A few days after Bernecker's death, a Savannah jury awarded the family of Sarah Jones $11.2 million in her wrongful death lawsuit. In 2014, she was working as a camera assistant on "Midnight Rider." She was killed when a train crashed into the set while filming on a track without prior clearance.

Bernecker's mother is being represented by the same law firm that handled that case.

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