Wal-Mart driver attempts to put the brakes on Tracy Morgan’s lawsuit
Craig D. Frazier | 11/28/2014, 4:57 p.m.
Former Wal-Mart truck driver Kevin Roper, accused of critically injuring comedian- actor Tracy Morgan and killing his friend, fellow comedian James McNair, filed a request last week to delay a federal lawsuit while his criminal case proceeds in state court. The driver has been charged with vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto.
Morgan and others who were riding in the limo van charge that Wal-Mart should have known that Roper’s hours were not in compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations and that he had been awake for more than 24 hours. Court reports obtained by AmNews say the retailer faulted Morgan and his entourage for not wearing their seat belts, asserting that if all had been using safety restraints, “all or a portion of the injuries could have been diminished or minimized.”
Morgan’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, and lawyers for Wal-Mart appeared in a New Jersey courtroom this week to determine a schedule for the proceedings. Morelli said that Morgan suffers from traumatic brain injury. “He’s fighting to get better and if there’s a chance for him to be back to the Tracy Morgan he once was, he’s going to try to do that,” Morelli said. “But we just don’t know, because of the severity of the injuries that he sustained and the fact that he had such a severe brain injury.”
The request to delay the civil proceedings will be decided Dec. 15 before U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp. A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board showed that Roper, who prosecutors say had been awake for 24 hours before the crash, was going 65 mph—20 mph above the speed limit.