Judge Rejects Bid to Delay Tracy Morgan's Lawsuit Against Walmart

Tracy Morgan - H - 2014
Associated Press

On Friday, a federal judge in New Jersey refused to halt a lawsuit brought by Tracy Morgan and others seriously injured in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The plaintiffs are suing Walmart for negligence for allegedly keeping truck driver Kevin Roper on the road for a dangerously long stretch. Roper attempted to intervene in the lawsuit and delay the outcome of the civil action until his own criminal case got resolved.

But U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp won't use that as reason for any delay.

"Mr. Roper has not demonstrated that his Application requires emergent relief," the judge writes. "Here, Mr. Roper's lack of urgency, as reflected by the submission of his Application five months after the Complaint was filed and three weeks after the Court's Scheduling Order was entered, undermines his claim of immediate and irreparable harm."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had argued that Walmart was using Roper to gain "an unfair advantage" in the lawsuit. It was called a "ploy to further delay this trial."

Despite Roper's protestations that he would be prejudiced by participation in the civil lawsuit, he's not a defendant. The plaintiffs argued, "He does not need to choose between waiving his Fifth Amendment rights by defending himself in the civil lawsuit and asserting the privilege and possibly losing the civil case. … While the outcome of any criminal action would have an effect on the civil case against Walmart since it is vicariously liable for its drivers' conduct in the course of their employment, the converse is not true since any verdict obtained in the civil case would be inadmissible in Mr. Roper's criminal case."

Morgan's attorneys further argued that expediency was of importance "so that Walmart's alleged trucking practices will be uncovered and hopefully made safer going forward."

The case continues.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner