In response to comedian Tracy Morgan’s lawsuit against Walmart blaming it for the six-vehicle crash that left him and others critically injured and one man dead, the retail giant said Monday that Mr. Morgan and the others failed to use their seatbelts properly.
According to court documents filed in a New Jersey federal court, Mr. Morgan’s injuries “were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device.”
Mr. Morgan, still recovering from the June 7 crash, was traveling from Delaware to New York in a limousine van with his assistant Jeffrey Millea, comedians Ardie Fuqua, Harris Stanton, and James McNair when a Walmart truck plowed into their vehicle on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Mr. Morgan, famous for his roles on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, was sent to the intensive care unit at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Center in New Brunswick, N.J., for multiple critical injuries. Three other passengers in Mr. Morgan’s can were injured, two of them critically, and Mr. McNair, Morgan’s friend and mentor, died at the scene.
Morgan’s lawsuit, filed in July, suggests Walmart driver Kevin Roper, 35, was fatigued at the time of the crash. Mr. Roper routinely commuted 700 miles from his home in Jonesboro, Ga., to work at a Walmart facility in Smyrna, Del. Mr. Roper had just made the long commute before starting his driving shift the day of the crash, had made several deliveries during the day, and was nearing the end of his shift when the crash occurred.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that Mr. Roper was driving 20 mph above the posted speed limit in a construction zone when he slammed into Mr. Morgan’s van.
“Walmart knew or should have known” that Mr. Roper had been “awake for more than 24 consecutive hours” before the crash, the lawsuit contends.
In its defense, however, Walmart said Monday 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.”
Mr. Morgan wasted no time responding to Walmart’s claim. “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,” he said in a statement Monday “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,” Mr. Morgan said.