Morelli Alters Ratner LLP has filed a lawsuit against Walmart on behalf of actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and two others who were seriously injured during a collision allegedly caused by a Walmart truck driver.
The lawsuit, filed July 10, claims that Morgan, Ardley Fuqua Jr, and Jeffrey Millea were passengers in a vehicle that was rear-ended by a Wal-Mart truck operated by Kevin Roper.
Court documents state that the June 7 accident occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike as Morgan, his assistant Jeffrey Millea, and fellow comedians Ardley Fuqua Jr and James McNair were returning from a stand-up comedy show in Delaware. McNair was killed in the crash. Morgan, Millea, and Fuqua–who all suffered serious injuries as a result of the collision–retained Morelli Alters Ratner LLP to bring the lawsuit against Wal-Mart. Millea’s wife also joined the lawsuit, but was not a passenger in the vehicle.
According to the civil complaint (case #3:14-CV-04388-MAS-LHG, Trenton, NJ), Walmart’s negligence substantially contributed to the accident and injuries suffered by Morgan, Fuqua, and Millea. They allege that Wal-Mart knew or should have known that Roper–who lived in Georgia and was based out of a Walmart facility in Delaware–commuted a distance of 750 miles before working nearly 14 hours driving a company truck. Roper was also driving 65 mph in a 45 mph construction zone 60 seconds before the crash and is currently facing criminal charges for death and assault by auto.
In the lawsuit, the firm cites a number of instances that it says demonstrate Walmart’s negligence as a substantial contributing factor to the accident. The suit claims that Walmart knew or should have known that Roper’s hours did not comply with federal trucking regulations against driver fatigue, that he had been awake for more than 24 hours, and that it was unreasonable for him to travel more than 700 miles to work at a facility in Delaware when there were numerous other facilities much closer to where he lived, including nine in Georgia. The suit also alleges that state-of-the-art collision-avoidance systems in the truck were not working properly, and that Walmart knew or should have known that this crucial safety feature was compromised.
Partner Benedict Morelli said in a release: “Walmart’s creation of a culture that forces its truck drivers to drive long distances without sleep–in violation of safety regulations–has put many drivers and passengers on the road at risk of injury and death. Mr Roper was forced to drive over 700 miles from his home in Georgia to Delaware to pick up his truck and then begin his shift, which ended in this tragic accident some 13 hours later. We intend to hold Walmart fully responsible for all the harm they have caused to our clients and their families in this horrific accident.”
By exposing Walmart’s failures to comply with federal trucking regulations, condemn excessive commutes by drivers, and ensure the safety of their vehicles, Morelli Alters Ratner LLP hopes to recover full and just compensation for the damages suffered by their clients. The firm is also seeking punitive damages on behalf of Morgan and others as a result of Walmart’s alleged gross negligence.