Tracy Morgan, Wal-Mart Settle N.J. Crash Lawsuit

(CN) – Tracy Morgan and Wal-Mart have settled a lawsuit stemming from the June 2014 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that severely injured the actor-comedian and left one of his friends dead.
     In a filing in the Trenton, New Jersey Federal Court on Wednesday, Morgan and the retail giant ask the court to seal documents pertaining to related to the settlement and related request for attorneys’ fees.
     “Plaintiff’s Counsel’s Fee Application contains myriad information regarding confidential settlement negotiations and the confidential final settlement amounts,” the joint motion says.
     “The parties have a strong joint interest in keeping this information confidential, and there is no countervailing public interest in releasing this information,” the motion continues. “Accordingly, the parties respectfully request that the Court grant the instant motion.”
     The crash in which Morgan was gravely injured occurred in the early morning hours of June 7, 2014 on the New Jersey Turnpike’s northbound spur. At the time Morgan and other comedians and friends were returning from a comedy show in Dover, Del.
     A Wal-Mart truck driven by Kevin Roper rear-ended the comedians’ limo near Cranbury, N.J. The accident left Morgan, the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star, with brain injuries, a broken leg, broken nose and broken ribs.
     James McNair, a comedian and friend of Morgan who went by the name Jimmy Mack, was killed, and a number of other performers and friends riding in the comedian’s SUV limousine were injured.
     Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board found that Roper was driving 65 mph in a 45 mph construction zone, and had logged 13 hours and 32 minutes of driving at the time of the collision. The agency said the legal limit for a trucker’s shift is 14 hours.
     Roper was charged with death by auto and assault by auto.
     Morgan and three other passengers in his vehicle sued, claiming Wal-Mart should have known the driver had been awake for more than 24 hours. They claim that the driver also had a commute of 700 miles from his home in Georgia to work in Delaware, which is “unreasonable.” The lawsuit also claims that the Wal-Mart driver fell asleep at the wheel.
     Wal-Mart filed an answer to the negligence complaint on Monday, claiming that “plaintiffs’ complaint fails to set forth any facts which are sufficient to support a direct and/or vicarious claim of negligence as to Wal-Mart.”
     Wal-Mart denied all of the allegations regarding personal liability for the company.
     It claimed that the plaintiffs’ injuries “were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device,” and that “by failing to exercise ordinary care in making use of available seatbelts, upon information and belief, plaintiffs acted unreasonably and in disregard of plaintiffs’ own best interests.”
     On Wednesday, Morgan’s attorney, Benedict Morelli said, “Wal-Mart and I worked diligently to reach this settlement for the plaintiffs and their families.
     “Wal-Mart took full responsibility for the accident, which we greatly appreciate,” Morelli said.
     “Our thoughts continue to go out to everyone that was involved in the accident,” said Wal-Mart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran in a statement.
     “While we know there is nothing that can change what happened, Wal-Mart has been committed to doing what’s right to ensure the well-being of those who were impacted by the accident,” Foran said. “We worked closely with Mr. Morelli, and we are pleased to have reached an amicable settlement that ends this litigation. We are deeply sorry that one of our trucks was involved.”
     In the same statement Morgan himself said, “Walmart did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families. I am grateful that the case was resolved amicably.”

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