Comedian Tracy Morgan, the former star of "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live," is going to war with the retail giant Wal-Mart over severe injuries he sustained in a June car accident with one of their tractor-trailers.
The 45-year-old sued Wal-Mart after a close friend died and Morgan suffered a broken leg and ribs when his limousine bus was struck by one of the store's trucks. According to Morgan's lawsuit, the driver of the Wal-Mart vehicle, Kevin Roper, had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash. Roper had also allegedly commuted 700 miles from his home before beginning his shift. The Morgan lawsuit alleges he was asleep at the wheel.
Wal-Mart contends that the actor was not wearing a seat belt at the time of his crash and therefore the company is not liable.
“Upon information and belief, plaintiffs’ injuries, if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seat belt restraint device,” Wal-Mart said, according to court papers.
"By failing to exercise ordinary care in making use of available seat belts, upon information and belief, plaintiffs acted unreasonably and in disregard of plaintiffs' own best interests," they added.
Wal-Mart declined to delve too deeply into Morgan's accusations, citing an ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the accident. However, the company did say in an official statement: "Wal-Mart is committed to working to resolve all of the remaining issues as a result of the accident. As part of the ordinary course of legal proceedings, Walmart filed an initial response yesterday to the lawsuit that included facts and defenses that may impact the case moving forward. While we were required to respond to the lawsuit, we have also taken steps to encourage settlement discussions. Our thoughts continue to go out to everyone involved, and we remain committed to doing what’s right," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan.
As far as Morgan's is concerned, the company's decision to fault him and his fellow passengers for their accident was no laughing matter.
"After I heard what Wal-Mart said in court I felt I had to speak out. I can't believe Wal-Mart is blaming me for an accident that they caused. 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," Morgan said through his spokesperson Lewis Kay.
Roper, who was reportedly driving 20 mph over the speed limit at the time of the crash, has been charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto. He has pleaded not guilty.
Morgan, who is currently wheelchair-bound, may never perform again, according to his representatives. He is currently undergoing rehab for speech, cognitive, vocational and physical functions.
“These people are despicable,” Morgan's attorney Benedict Morelli said of Wal-Mart executives, in the New York Post. “They knew that they changed these people’s lives forever and killed somebody. They’re good blame shifters. I guess that’s how they make $783 billion a year, shifting the blame.”