July 12, 2014 - 3:58 PM
TRENTON, N.J. - Tracy Morgan has sued Wal-Mart over last month's highway crash that seriously injured him and killed a fellow comedian.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, claims Wal-Mart was negligent when a driver of one of its trucks rammed into Morgan's limousine van. The complaint claims the retail giant should have known the driver had been awake for over 24 hours, and that his commute of 700 miles (1,125 kilometres) from his home in Georgia to work in Delaware was "unreasonable." It also alleges the driver fell asleep at the wheel.
"As a result of Wal-Mart's gross, reckless, wilful, wanton, and intentional conduct, it should be appropriately punished with the imposition of punitive damages," according to the complaint.
The June 7 wreck on the New Jersey Turnpike killed 62-year-old comedian James McNair, who went by the name Jimmy Mack. Comedian Ardley Fuqua and Jeffrey and Krista Millea, who were passengers in the limo, are also named as plaintiffs.
Morgan, the former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" star, suffered a broken leg and broken ribs in the crash and is currently in a rehabilitation centre. Fuqua is recovering from crash-related injuries.
Truck driver Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, has pleaded not guilty to death by auto and assault by auto charges. A criminal complaint also accuses him of not sleeping for more than 24 hours before the crash, a violation of New Jersey law.
A report by federal transportation safety investigators said Roper was driving 105 kph in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the limo van. The speed limit on that stretch of the turnpike is 89 kph and was lowered to 72 kph that night because of construction.
Roper had been on the job about 13 1/2 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.
Morgan, a New York City native, was returning from a standup comedy performance at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware when the crash occurred.
Morgan's lawsuit seeks a jury trial and punitive and compensatory damages.
A message seeking comment from Wal-Mart was not immediately returned Saturday. An email seeking comment from Morgan's publicist was not immediately answered.
News from © The Associated Press, 2014