Comedian Tracy Morgan and two others have filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart alleging it was negligent in the truck crash that killed comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and severely injured Morgan and others.
The lawsuit states:
“As a result of Wal-Mart’s gross, reckless, willful, wanton, and intentional conduct, it should be appropriately punished with the imposition of punitive damages.”
Morgan and the two others who were injured contend Wal-Mart should have known its truck driver, Kevin Roper, was operating on little sleep because the retail chain allowed him to commute an unreasonable distance before starting the shift during which the crash occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike on June 7.
Prosecutors have charged Roper with vehicular homicide, saying the driver had been awake more than 24 hours at the time of the crash. Roper has pleaded not guilty. Roper’s Wal-Mart truck slammed into a van carrying Morgan and the others.
The lawsuit claims on the morning of June 6, Roper reported to a Wal-Mart distribution center in central Delaware after traveling from his home in Georgia — a 700-mile, 11-hour trip. The suit says Wal-Mart could have asked Roper to report to a location closer to his home and that because of his long commute, he fell asleep at the wheel before the crash.
Hours-of-service regulations for commercial drivers’ license holders limit work shifts to 14 hours, with only 11 hours behind the wheel. Drivers must have a 34-hour rest period after a 60-hour work week, with two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. stretches included in the rest period.
Morgan suffered a broken leg and ribs and had been in rehab after the crash for about a month. The lawsuit says Morgan and the two others injured “could be left with disabilities that would further prevent them from working.”
Wal-Mart has issued a statement saying the crash was a “terrible tragedy” and that the company is “cooperating fully in the ongoing investigation.” Wal-Mart says it’s “committed to doing the right thing for all involved.”
Do you think Wal-Mart should have kept track of its driver’s number of pre-shift hours awake? Let us know in the comments.