Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) November 3, 2014 – The "30 Rock" comedian has filed a lawsuit against Walmart, setting his case on the heels of the criminal case against the firm’s truck driver.
On June 7, a commercial truck plowed into a limousine van carrying, among other passengers, comedian Tracy Morgan. The crash killed fellow comedian James McNair and injured Morgan and others aboard the limo, and it has turned into a high-profile example of a deadly tractor-trailer crash and the legal proceedings that surround it.
The case has taken several twists since the accident on the northbound New Jersey Turnpike -- most recently, when Morgan sued Walmart, the owner of the truck, on July 10.
Morgan claims that the company was negligent in the ownership and operation of its tractor-trailer, which was a “substantial contributing factor” in the crash that severely injured Morgan, killed one of his friends, and injured two others aboard the limousine van.
The truck slammed into the van from behind, triggering a six-vehicle pileup. James McNair, 62, also known as Jimmy Mack, was killed in the crash.
“It is not surprising that Morgan’s personal injury lawsuit would target the truck’s owner and operator,” said Steven Petrillo, a prominent attorney in Pennsaucken, New Jersey whose firm specializes in representing clients injured in accidents involving commercial vehicles. “It would behoove the plaintiff to try to seek damages from a potentially liable party like Walmart.”
Kevin Roper was driving the Peterbilt truck that crashed into the Mercedes-Benz limo van in June. Roper has already been charged with death by auto and assault by auto in a criminal complaint. Roper has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were filed in Middlesex County, New Jersey two days after the collision in Cranbury Township, about 45 miles from New York City.
In the criminal complaint, Roper was accused of driving the truck “without having slept for a period of in excess of 24 hours, resulting in a motor vehicle accident.” However, Walmart quickly issued a statement through a spokesperson in which it asserted that the company believed Roper “was operating within the federal hours of service regulations.” Those guidelines limit work shifts to 14 hours, including a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation conducted in the wake of the crash concluded that Roper was speeding, traveling at 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, just before the multi-vehicle collision. The report appeared to show that Roper had been on duty about 13.5 hours at the time of the crash, which is within federal rules.
“The New Jersey law that places a driver in peril of a vehicular homicide charge is unambiguous,” Petrillo said. “Especially when he or she has been without sleep for at least 24 hours when a fatal accident occurs. But it is less clear how the New Jersey State Police determined that Roper had been sleep deprived.”
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