Morgan speaks during the taping of the Spike TV special tribute "Eddie Murphy: One Night Only" at the Saban theater in Beverly Hills, Nov. 3, 2012. Credit: Reuters / Mario Anzuoni
Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan has sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in a New Jersey federal court, alleging the retailer was negligent in connection with the June crash that left him critically injured and killed a fellow passenger.
The complaint, filed on Thursday, said Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart knew or should have known its truck driver, Kevin Roper, had been awake for over 24 hours prior to the crash and was not in compliance with federal regulations designed to combat driver fatigue.
The suit claims Roper commuted more than 700 miles from his Georgia home to a Wal-Mart distribution facility in Delaware before beginning his work shift.
Roper was charged last month with vehicular homicide and assault-by-auto after prosecutors said he rear-ended the limo bus Morgan and his entourage were riding in during the June 7 crash, near Cranbury, New Jersey.
Roper pleaded not guilty.
Morgan, best known for starring in NBC's "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live," was riding along the New Jersey Turnpike with several people including his assistant Jeffrey Millea and comedian Ardley Fuqua Jr, who were also injured in the crash and are co-plaintiffs in the suit.
The group was returning from a comedy performance they gave at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware. The crash killed comedian James McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York.
"We are deeply sorry that one of our trucks was involved," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "As we’ve said, we’re cooperating fully in the ongoing investigation."
"We know it will take some time to resolve all of the remaining issues as a result of the accident, but we’re committed to doing the right thing for all involved," the statement said.
Morgan was transferred to a rehabilitation center last month after spending about two weeks at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, recovering from a broken leg and other injuries.
Federal investigators said last month that Roper was driving roughly 20 miles per hour over the speed limit just before the crash.
Morgan and the other plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and attorneys' fees.
Attorney David Glassman, who represents Roper in the criminal case, was not immediately available for comment.