Last year we wrote about the deadly 18-wheeler crash involving Actor Tracy Morgan and Walmart. The accident occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike in June of 2014, severely injuring Morgan and others while also claiming the life of comedian James McNair, who was riding with Morgan at the time. The subsequent investigation revealed that Kevin Roper, driver of the Walmart truck, had fallen asleep at the wheel. This in turn sparked a heated debate over hours-of-service regulations in the commercial trucking industry.
Following the collision, Morgan filed a lawsuit against Walmart in conjunction with three other survivors of the accident. The suit alleged that Walmart had been “careless and negligent” regarding oversight of its trucks and equipment, as well as its drivers. It was determined that at the time of the crash Roper, the truck driver, had been awake for more than 24 consecutive hours and had just commuted from Georgia to the terminal in Delaware where he began his route – a distance of about 700 miles! The suit held that Walmart “knew or should have known” that there driver was in no condition to drive.
It was also determined that the commercial truck had a built in safety system that should have automatically engaged the brakes. However, the system failed to deploy, leading to the claim that Walmart “knew or should have known” that the system was faulty.
The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed to the public, but were finalized in May of this year with both parties agreeing to seal the case files. This settlement came on the heels of an early settlement involving a lawsuit filed by McNair’s family for his wrongful death.
Though these two civil lawsuits have been settled there is still ongoing criminal litigation surrounding the case. Roper has been charged with, and pleaded not guilty to, manslaughter for the death of McNair and assault by auto for the other injuries. The criminal case is still continuing.
THE HOURS-OF-SERVICE DEBATE
A major consequence of this high-profile accident is the fact that it has spurred a heated debate regarding hours-of-service regulations. Data clearly shows that the risk of accidents rises with higher hours-of-service and that by limiting legal hours-of-service many accidents, injuries, and deaths can be avoided.
Dugas Law Firm is committed to making US roads and highways a safer place by standing up for the rights of everyday men and women who are injured by careless or negligent truckers or trucking companies. The reality is that not every 18-wheeler accident involving an hours-of-service or other violation is going to be as high profile as the Tracy Morgan case. However, each and every person on the road deserves the same legal protections and has the same rights to safety.