Walmart settles with family of man killed in Tracy Morgan crash

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 1/23/2015

Retail giant Walmart and the family of a man who was killed in a June 7 crash involving one of the company’s tractor-trailers and a limousine van carrying actor-comedian Tracy Morgan have reached a settlement in a wrongful-death suit stemming from the crash.

The family of comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, of Peekskill, N.Y., and Walmart reached an undisclosed settlement on Thursday, according to company spokesman Randy Hargrove.

“We know there is nothing we can do to change what happened to Mr. McNair, but Walmart and his family have worked closely together to reach an agreement,” Hargrove said in a phone interview with Land Line. “Walmart will continue to work to conclude all of the remaining issues, and we’re committed to doing what’s right.”

Hargrove declined to disclose terms of the settlement, and declined to comment specifically on what those remaining issues are. A story in The Journal News states that according to the attorney for McNair’s two adult children, the terms of the settlement state that Walmart does not accept responsibility for the death of McNair.

Morgan and other surviving victims remain party to a separate civil suit that seeks damages for serious injuries sustained in the crash, which occurred just before 1 a.m. on Saturday, June 7, 2014 on the New Jersey Turnpike. The suit alleges that Walmart was “careless and negligent” in the ownership and operation of its tractor-trailer; that the company driver, Kevin Roper, fell asleep behind the wheel prior to the crash; and that the collision avoidance technology installed in the truck failed to automatically engage the brakes.

Roper is facing five criminal charges from the state of New Jersey, including one count of death by auto. He has pleaded not guilty. Last month a federal judge in New Jersey ruled that the civil suit may proceed concurrently with Roper’s criminal court case. Roper is not a named party in the civil suit.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report last summer, stating that Roper’s day started 11:22 a.m. on Friday, June 6, according to his electronic driver log. It would end at approximately 12:54 a.m. on Saturday morning, when his 2011 Peterbilt tractor-trailer slammed into a 2012 Mercedes-Benz limousine van near milepost 71.4 of the northbound lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike.

The NTSB’s June 19 report states that according to electronic driver log information, Roper had logged 9 hours 37 minutes of driving time when the crash occurred. With respect to the maximum 14-hour consecutive duty period for commercial motor vehicle drivers, Roper had logged 13 hours 32 minutes at the time of the collision, per the NTSB report.

The impact of the crash caused both vehicles to move forward, causing secondary impacts with other vehicles that were slowed in the traffic queue that developed south of some road construction. The limo van rolled over and came to rest on its left side, facing east, across the center and right lanes, according to the report.

The NTSB report states that Roper had made a series of pickups and drop-offs during the day in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The e-log reportedly shows that he left a Walmart facility near Bristol, Penn., roughly 54 miles southwest of his destination in Perth Amboy, N.J., at 12:20 a.m. on Saturday. The crash occurred roughly 30 miles away, near Cranbury, N.J.

The report states that the traffic congestion began some 2.7 miles north of the crash site, where construction contractors were performing work on a large overhead sign, causing the right and center lanes of the turnpike to be closed. The report states that an advance warning sign about one mile south of the crash location was activated, notifying drivers of the lane closure. At approximately one-half mile before the crash site, the posted speed limit was reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph.

According to the report, Roper had logged 9 hours and 37 minutes of drive time when the crash occurred, and 13 hours and 32 minutes of on-duty time. The report also states that the engine control module (ECM) on his Peterbilt recorded a traveling speed of 65 mph for the 60 seconds preceding the crash.

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