Tracy Morgan: "Walmart Blaming Me for an Accident They Caused"
The comedian has responded to the retailer's charge that he wasn't wearing a seatbelt
Tracy Morgan has responded to Walmart's claim that he's partly responsible for the injuries he suffered in an accident this June because he wasn't wearing a seat belt.
"After I heard what Walmart said in court I felt I had to speak out," Morgan said in a statement. "I can't believe Walmart is blaming me for an accident that they caused. My friends and I were doing nothing wrong. I want to thank my fans for sticking with me during this difficult time. I love you all. I'm fighting hard every day to get back."
Morgan's comment comes in response to a Monday filing by Walmart, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, in response to the comedian's lawsuit arising from the six-car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike.
In its filing, Walmart says that the injuries suffered by Morgan and other vehicle occupants "were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs' failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device."
Morgan and several other people injured in the accident sued Walmart in July, alleging negligence on the retailer's part.
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"Walmart was careless and negligent in the ownership and operation of its motor vehicle, which caused Mr. Morgan to suffer severe personal injuries," the complaint reads. "As a direct and proximate result of said collision, Mr. Morgan was caused to sustain severe painful bodily injuries, including but not limited to multiple fractures which required multiple surgeries, extensive medical treatment and will require significant physical rehabilitation."
The suit alleges that driver Kevin Roper, who allegedly plowed into the limousine van carrying Morgan on June 7, was fatigued when the accident occurred and "Walmart knew or should have known" that he had been "awake for more than 24 consecutive hours" ahead of the crash. The suit alleges Roper fell asleep at the wheel immediately before the crash as a result of his fatigue.
The accident left one of the van's passengers, comedian James McNair, dead and Morgan in critical condition. Roper has pleaded not guilty to death by auto and assault by auto charges.
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Morgan and the other plaintiffs — including his assistant, wife and comedian Ardie Fuqua — are seeking compensatory and statutory damages, punitive damages, legal fees and pre- and post-judgment interest among other things at a jury trial.
In its New Jersey federal court filing, Walmart wouldn't go into particulars about exactly what happened in the crash and said it was "unable to admit or deny" various allegations in the lawsuit as it's part of the National Transportation Safety Board's ongoing investigation into the accident.
But Walmart disputed Morgan and Co.'s claim that it was responsible for the accident and said that plaintiffs are barred from recovering damages because they failed to mitigate their losses.
Morgan left the hospital on June 20 and was moved to a rehab facility before returning home. Morgan's lawyer said shortly after the Walmart lawsuit was filed that his client was still having a rough time.
About 30 states have banned the so-called "seat belt defense," but not New Jersey.