The driver of a Walmart truck that slammed into the back of a limousine, critically injuring actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and killing his friend James McNair a.k.a. “Jimmy Mack,” has filed a motion in federal court seeking to delay Mr. Morgan’s personal injury lawsuit.
Kevin Roper, the Walmart driver blamed for causing the June 7 chain-reaction crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, faces several criminal charges in connection with the crash in state court. He has asked the federal court to put Mr. Morgan’s lawsuit on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case, which includes one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto.
Mr. Roper has pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in its preliminary investigation of the crash that Mr. Roper had been driving 20 mph over the posted speed limit in the minute before he crashed into Mr. Morgan’s limo van at 65 mph.
Mr. Morgan has sued Walmart, seeking compensatory and punitive damages for his injuries, which included multiple broken bones that caused him to spend several weeks in rehabilitation.
Mr. Morgan’s lawsuit against Walmart does not name Mr. Roper as a defendant, but it makes several allegations against him. The complaint says that Mr. Roper failed to notice vehicles on the turnpike had slowed for construction because he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
The lawsuit also notes that Mr. Roper commuted 700 miles from his Georgia home to his job in Delaware, and that Walmart should have been aware of this “unreasonable” commute.
A criminal complaint filed by N.J. State Police against Mr. Roper alleges he had not slept in more than 24 hours before the crash, a violation of state law and federal safety regulations.
According to the Associated Press, Mr. Roper’s attorney argued that permitting Mr. Morgan’s lawsuit against Walmart to go forward in federal court “would essentially force Roper to defend two actions at once,” thereby creating a “de facto additional forum through which the criminal prosecution could obtain evidence for use in the criminal trial against Roper.”