In a shocking legal maneuver, Wal-Mart has accused Tracy Morgan, the beloved star of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, and his dear friend James “Jimmy Mac” McNair of being at fault for the horrific fatal accident.
You will remember that earlier this summer, a speeding, drowsy Wal-Mart driver slammed into the limousine carrying comedians Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Mac and their friends as they headed home after a performance. The truck accident killed Jimmy Mac and so seriously injured Mr. Morgan that he may never be able to perform again.
Wal-Mart Claims Victims Acted Unreasonably
Although investigators cited the truck driver’s speed and sleeplessness as the only causes of the crash, the retail giant tried to shift the blame to the victims for not wearing seat belts in documents it filed in federal court Tuesday.
The occupants filed a detailed lawsuit alleging negligence
in the June 7th tractor-trailer crash. However, in its 28 page amended answer, Wal-Mart claims
the injuries were “caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure
to properly wear an appropriate available seat belt restraint device,”
and thus the plaintiffs “acted unreasonably and in disregard of
plaintiffs’ own best interests.”
Note that seat belts are not required in New Jersey if someone is sitting in the back seat of a vehicle.
Wal-Mart also filed defenses asserting that the plaintiff’s lengthy complaint failed to state any facts to support a negligence claim, failed to state any causes of action against Wal-Mart, the big-box retailer owed no duty to them, that any damages the plaintiffs sustained were not caused by it or its employees, and that the victims were comparatively negligent for their damages.
Tracy Morgan’s Justifiable Reaction: Shock
An incredulous Tracy Morgan responded to the appalling accusations:
“After I heard what Walmart said in court I felt I had to speak out. I can’t
believe Walmart is blaming me for an accident that they caused. My
friends and I were doing nothing wrong. I want to thank my fans for
sticking with me during this difficult time. I love you all. I’m
fighting hard every day to get back.”
Hours Of Service Rules Were Designed To Prevent Drowsy Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently passed new hours of service rules intended to protect other motorists from
fatigued drivers. The FMSCA holds both the driver and the employer
responsible for violating hours of service regulations. In addition, New Jersey’s Maggie’s Law forbids a driver from operating a vehicle if the person has been awake for more than 24 hours.
According to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, Wal-Mart should have known that Mr. Roper
had violated the federal FMSCA regulations and New Jersey’s statute
because the company was aware that the driver commuted 700 miles from
his home in Georgia to report for work in Delaware.
It’s hard to believe that just one week before the collision, a U. S. Senate committee approved a bill that severely weakened the new 2013 hours-of-service regulations restricting truckers from driving more than 70 hours a week. Why were the regulations tightened up last year? The FMCSA wanted to “reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads.”
To read more on this subject, click on Texas Truck Accident Lawyer Blog’s post called New Driver Fatigue Rules Start Today (from July 1, 2013).
Drowsy Driving Is A Serious Problem On Our Highways
I have seen that driver fatigue is a critical factor in many collisions on our Texas roads. There are often two sets of log books found, if the attorney and his team can get inside the truck before they are removed — the real books showing excessive driving and the fake books to be produced to law enforcement officials.
I wish Mr. Morgan a speedy recovery. My heart goes out to the family of Mr. McNair. I hope that Wal-Mart — and other trucking companies — stop blaming the victims and take steps to ensure their drivers never violate hours of service laws again.