Walmart settles civil suit with Tracy Morgan, other victims of fatal crash

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 5/27/2015

Attorneys for Walmart announced the company has reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Tracy Morgan and other passengers who were injured last summer in a fatal crash with one of the company’s truck drivers. The announcement was made via press release on the retail giant’s website.

“Walmart and I worked diligently to reach this settlement for the plaintiffs and their families,” plaintiffs’ attorney Benedict Morelli said in the release. “Walmart took full responsibility for the accident, which we greatly appreciate.”

The settlement ends a civil suit filed on behalf of actor-comedian Morgan and three other plaintiffs: comedian Ardley Fuqua Jr.; Morgan’s personal assistant, Jeffrey Millea; and Millea’s wife, Krista. The company had already reached a settlement in January with the family of comedian James McNair.

“Our thoughts continue to go out to everyone that was involved in the accident,” Walmart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran said in the release. “While we know there is nothing that can change what happened, Walmart has been committed to doing what's right to help ensure the well-being of all of those who were impacted by the accident. We worked closely with Mr.. Morelli, and we are pleased to have reached an amicable settlement that ends this litigation. We are deeply sorry that one of our trucks was involved.”

McNair was killed, and Morgan and the other surviving victims were seriously injured, when a Walmart tractor-trailer driven by Kevin Roper struck their limousine van just before 1 a.m. on June 7, 2014, on the New Jersey Turnpike near milepost 71.4.

“Walmart did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families,” Morgan said in the release. “I am grateful that the case was resolved amicably.”

Roper is facing five criminal charges from the state of New Jersey, including one count of death by auto. He has pleaded not guilty. He was not a party to the civil suit.

The lawsuit alleged 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.

The lawsuit alleged that Walmart was “careless and negligent” in the ownership and operation of its tractor-trailer; that 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.

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