Walmart logoIn response to a lawsuit filed by comedian Tracy Morgan over a vehicle crash in June that killed one and seriously injured Morgan and two others, Walmart says that Morgan and his fellow riders were at least partly to blame for their injuries because they were not wearing seat belts, as Topher Gauk-Roger writes for CNN.

Walmart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said the retail giant’s filing is a procedural step and that Walmart has been in contact with Morgan and his lawyers to try to resolve the matter, writes Shelly Banjo for The Wall Street Journal.

As this blog has reported, Morgan announced in July that he was suing Walmart, whose truck driver Kevin Roper rear-ended the limo bus carrying Morgan and others as Roper drove 20 miles over the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike. The crash killed 62-year-old comedian James McNair and critically injured Morgan and two other passengers. Roper pleaded not guilty to the charges of vehicular homicide. Regarding Morgan’s lawsuit, Banjo writes that a criminal complaint also accuses Roper of getting insufficient rest, claiming he did not sleep for more than 24 hours before the car accident, which is against federal and state law.

Banjo writes:

In a lawsuit filed in July in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey, Mr. Morgan claimed that Kevin Roper, the driver of the Wal-Mart truck, was speeding when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the actor’s vehicle after staying awake for more than 24 hours.

The lawsuit alleges the driver commuted 700 miles from his home in Georgia to Delaware to start work and that Wal-Mart should have known the drivers’ hours violated federal laws aimed at preventing fatigue.

Benedict Morelli, a lawyer representing Morgan and other plaintiffs, said Walmart’s contentions are “surprising and appalling,” writes David Porter for Associated Press in an article appearing on the StarTribune. Porter quotes Morelli, who calls Walmart “disingenuous” because the company had initially said it would take full responsibility for the crash. The lawsuit by Morgan and others seeks a jury trial and punitive and compensatory damages.

Morgan suffered a broken nose, broken ribs, and a broken leg in the crash, as CNN writes. He was released from a rehab center in July, as this blog reported. He has still not fully recovered and has not yet resumed his career.

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