Tracy Morgan sues WalMart for compensatory and punitive damages in freeway crash

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Good afternoon:

Comedian Tracy Morgan has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against WalMart seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the injuries he suffered on June 7th when a WalMart semi plowed into the rear of the limousine in which he was riding as a passenger. He was returning to his home in New York City after performing at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Delaware when the accident happened. He is currently in a rehabilitation center recovering from a broken leg and broken ribs.

Comedian James McNair, 62, (AKA: Jimmy Mack) was not so “lucky.” He died in the accident.

Jeffrey and Krista Millea and another comedian, Ardley Fuqua, also were riding in the limousine and they have joined Morgan as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The driver of the WalMart semi is Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, GA. He told police that he nodded off and failed to notice that traffic ahead of him on the New Jersey Turnpike had slowed to a stop.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today,

A report by federal transportation safety investigators said Mr. Roper was driving 65 mph in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the limo van. The speed limit on that stretch of the turnpike is 55 mph and was lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction.

Mr. Roper had been on the job about 13½ hours at the time of the crash, the report concluded. Federal rules permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel.

Roper has been charged in New Jersey state court with causing a death by auto, assault by auto, and not sleeping for more than 24 hours before the crash. He has entered pleas of not guilty.

WalMart was sued pursuant to the legal doctrine of respondeat superior because Roper was employed by WalMart at the time of the accident and acting within the scope of his employment (i.e., driving the truck).

Compensatory damages consist of special damages (e.g., out of pocket expenses caused by defendant’s conduct, such as medical expenses and lost income from an inability to work) and general damages for pain and suffering.

Generally speaking, general damages are usually awarded in an amount that is three times the amount of special damages.

Morgan and the other plaintiffs also are seeking punitive damages (i.e., to punish a defendant for intentional, willful, wanton or reckless misconduct).

To prevail against WalMart on their request for punitive damages, I expect they will have to show that WalMart knew that Mr. Roper was driving in excess of the hourly limits imposed by statute on long distance truck drivers. Since he lived in Georgia and was commuting to New York City to pick up a load for WalMart, I do not believe they will encounter much difficulty meeting their burden of proof.

This case is worth millions of dollars and it looks like WalMart does not have a leg to stand on.

The sky would be the limit except that, “fortunately” for WalMart, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has capped punitive damage awards to not more than ten times the amount awarded for compensatory damages.

Unless settled, which I doubt will happen because of the punitive damages claim, further action in this case will not happen until the criminal case against the driver is resolved.

Therefore, do not be surprised if a stay is entered by the United States District Court judge.

This is our 1132nd post. If you appreciate what we do, please toss some money into the hat. We need it to keep the lights on.

Thank you,


11 Responses to Tracy Morgan sues WalMart for compensatory and punitive damages in freeway crash

  1. Kisha Mack Jr says:

    As one of the grieving family members devastated by the tragic misfortune of losing my uncle there needs to be tougher guidelines when it comes to these truck drivers and the companies that employ them. Sadly this comes to late for my wonderful uncle who has left
    behind to grieve a daughter, son,
    4 sisters and 2 brothers along with a host of nieces and nephews.

    • Words do not come easily to me after reading your comment because everything that comes to mind seems shallow. I too have experienced a loss and bear the wound that does not heal.

      Yes, we need tougher regulations and the necessary oversight to enforce them.

      May peace be with you and your family through this difficult time.


  2. J4TMinATL says:

    I believe Wal-Mart issued statement after accident that they would cover the costs.

    • Not exactly. They are trying to appear reasonable without committing to any numbers.

      Liability for compensatory damages is a given. The question is whether they are going to have to pay punitive damages.

  3. MKX says:

    I meant to say that the compensation for a 6 hour day or 30 hour week should be equal to a present 8 hour day or 40 hour week.

  4. MKX says:

    I have driven from Oscoda, MI to Washington DC in one day – about 700 miles. That takes a lot out of me. The next day, I am still a little “off”. To me, eight hours per day should be a limit.

    Oh, but the profit squeezers never give any of the productivity due to advances in efficiency to the workers.

    In a just world, we should be getting the same amount of pay for a 6 hour day or 30 hour week.

    Instead, we have to hear lame diatribes about how Joe or Jane 9-5 is a moocher who does not work hard enough and, as such, the moribund economy is their fault.

    Economics is more than just blindly stating that the free market will create a good society. So one does not have to do any critical thinking. Just have “blind faith” in “the markets”.

    No, a free market reduces a laborer to a commodity on par with iron ore.

    So economists have to think beyond intersections of supply and demand curves when seeking to answer the fundamental question of:

    How are the results of the productivity of a society, taken as a whole, equitably distributed?

  5. Ebola Continues Undaunted

    Businessweek reports today:

    There have been 99 Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone out of 315 laboratory-confirmed cases, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. The ministry said yesterday that 92 people had died out of 305 cases. Cases of the hemorrhagic fever have killed more than 540 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in an outbreak that according to the World Health Organization may last another three to four months.

    Presumptuous, methinks.

    They hope, but cannot know, that it will not extend beyond 4 months.

    WHO is not in control.

    Ebola is.

  6. bettykath says:

    OT Mary Anne was sentenced to one year in jail. Her story shows one perversion of our “justice” system.

    Here is the original version of Mary
    Anne Grady’s sentencing statement,

    “Your honor, a series of judicial perversions brings me here before
    you tonight.”

    First, I was convicted of violating an order of protection that
    represents a perversion of its intended use to protect victims of
    domestic violence. This order allegedly protects the commander of a
    military base who said himself under oath that he neither knows me nor
    needs protection from me. The real purpose of this order is to stifle
    dissent at the base.

    Second, as my 11-year old neighbor Lucien reminded me recently, this
    order “breaks the law” by perverting my Constitutional rights to
    freedom of speech and my right to protest injustice.

    Third, my jury trial represented a perversion of justice because the
    jury was forbidden to hear three key facts:
    all the protesters I photographed that day as their press liaison were acquitted
    I myself was previously acquitted for trespassing at the base because
    even the police could not specify the base boundaries.
    an acting Supreme Court judge ruled that the Order of Protection is
    invalid because its language is excessively vague and it shows no
    evidence of any threat

    A fourth perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here:
    the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people
    halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are
    the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone

    As I, a nonviolent grandmother of three and caregiver for my
    mother, prepare for jail – itself a perversion – I stand before you
    remorseful, less for what I have done than for what I have not yet
    done to keep my own country from perpetrating its ongoing acts of
    violence and injustice.

    Mary Anne Grady is at the
    The Onodaga County Department of Correction
    PO Box 143
    Jamesville, NY 13078
    She can receive letters and would probably love to hear from folks.

    2. So many of you have asked how to help. Mary Anne’s lawyer is appealing this case. It was submitted today. There are expenses related to the appeal and financial support would be gladly accepted.

    You can make checks to:
    Ithaca Catholic Worker (with Mary Anne’s name in the memo)
    And send it to
    Ellen Grady
    133 Sheffield Road
    Ithaca, New York 14850

  7. bettykath says:

    Long distance trucking is a very real problem. I was forced to stop along the highway due to my vehicle quitting. The police were quick to tell me to move it b/c the trucks tend to wander, especially at night. I can one 12 hour drive when I’m well rested but then need at least one day to recover. I think the truck drivers do it on uppers. The regulations need to change. The corporations won’t make the change on their own.

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