Walmart Responds to Tracy Morgan Lawsuit

Tracy Morgan filed a lawsuit Thursday against Walmart over last month's highway crash that seriously injured him and killed a fellow comedian.

"Based on the investigation we have complete thus far, we feel we have a very strong case against Walmart," Morgan's attorney Benedict P. Morelli said in a statement.

Two days later, the company, who has been accused of negligence when a driver of one of its tractor-trailers rammed into Morgan's limousine van has responded to the claims.

"This has been a terrible tragedy. We wish Mr. Morgan, Mr. Fuqua Jr., and Mr. Millea full recoveries," Walmart said in a statement. "Our thoughts continue to go out to them, their families and friends, as well as to the families and friends of everyone involved, including Mr. McNair who lost his life. We are deeply sorry that one of our trucks was involved. As we've said, we're cooperating fully in the ongoing investigation. We know it will take some time to resolve all of the remaining issues as a result of the accident, but we're committed to doing the right thing for all involved."

The June 7 wreck on the New Jersey Turnpike killed 62-year-old comedian James McNair, who went by the name Jimmy Mack.  Fellow comedian Ardley Fuqua, Jeffrey Millea of Shelton, Connecticut, and his wife Krista are also named as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit is the first indication that Krista Millea, who was 8 months pregnant at the time, was injured in the crash.

Morgan, the former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" star, suffered a broken leg and broken ribs in the crash and is currently in a rehabilitation center.

"All the plaintiffs have been serously injured but the total extent of the permanency of the injuries may not be determined for months or years," Morelli said.

Truck driver Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, has pleaded not guilty to death by auto and assault by auto charges. A criminal complaint also accuses him of not sleeping for more than 24 hours before the crash, a violation of New Jersey law.

A report by federal transportation safety investigators said Roper was driving 65 mph in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the limo van. The speed limit on that stretch of the turnpike is 55 mph and was lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction. 

The suit claims that the truck that Roper was driving was equipped with a "collision-avoidance system" designed to begin to automatically brake the truck when it senses traffic slowing. The truck, however, failed to automatically brake before the fatal crash. The lawsuit alleges that Walmart either knew about or should have known about the malfunction equipment before the accident.

Roper had been on the job about 13 1/2 hours at the time of the crash, the report concluded. Federal rules permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel.

Morgan, a New York City native, was returning from a standup performance at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware when the crash occurred.
Morgan's lawsuit seeks a jury trial and punitive and compensatory damages.
"As a result of Wal-Mart's gross, reckless, willful, wanton, and intentional conduct, it should be appropriately punished with the imposition of punitive damages," according to the complaint.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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