Walmart driver files appeal to halt Tracy Morgan civil suit

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 2/18/2015

Attorneys representing a Walmart truck driver who faces criminal prosecution in a wreck that killed one man and left comedian Tracy Morgan seriously injured have filed an appeal to once again try to halt a civil suit, which alleges negligence on the part of the retail store.

Kevin Roper, the driver of the semi that struck a limousine van transporting Morgan and others on the New Jersey turnpike shortly after midnight on June 7, 2014, is facing five criminal charges including one count of death by auto. He has pleaded not guilty.

On at least two other occasions, judges have denied Roper’s motions to stop the civil suit from occurring at the same time as the criminal case. While Roper is not a named party in the civil suit, his attorney, David Glassman, wrote in the appeal motion that his client’s conduct “is unquestionably the focal point of (the) Plaintiffs’ complaint” specifically the allegation that Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours immediately prior to the incident.

Glassman writes that a temporary stay in the civil case would protect Roper’s interests by preventing Walmart from “filing and making admissions or discovery responses that are damaging and potentially contradictory to Roper’s criminal defense strategy.”

“Even a cursory review of the media’s coverage of this matter reveals the negative impact that discovery in this action will have on Roper’s criminal case,” Glassman wrote.

He also stated that the interests of his client and the retail giant are not aligned. Walmart, which is faced with “potentially massive punitive liability for its alleged ‘pattern and practice’ of violating federal motor carrier regulations, would best serve its own interests by portraying Roper as a ‘sole-offender’…”

In addition to Morgan, the other three plaintiffs in the suit are comedian Ardley Fuqua Jr.; Morgan’s personal assistant, Jeffrey Millea; and Millea’s wife, Krista. Fuqua and Jeffrey Millea were passengers in the vehicle when it crashed.

Last month Walmart announced it had reached a settlement with the family of comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, who was killed in the crash. McNair was also a passenger in the limousine.

The lawsuit alleges that Roper commuted from his home in Jonesboro, Ga., roughly 750 miles from the Walmart distribution center in Smyrna, Del., before starting his work shift on the morning of Friday, June 6, approximately 13 and a half hours before the crash. A criminal complaint filed by the Middlesex County prosecutor states that Roper had not slept for “a period of in excess of 24 hours,” but the document does not state any additional details as to how investigators arrived at that conclusion.

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