Comedian holds retail chain responsible for driver’s negligence
Tractor-trailers and driver safety came into the spotlight this summer when comedian Tracy Morgan’s limousine van was involved in a fatal accident on the New Jersey Turnpike on June 7th. The driver of the truck was charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto. Morgan, who was hospitalized after suffering several broken bones in the rear-end collision, is now suing Walmart, who owns the truck and hired the driver.
According to police reports, Kevin Roper, the driver of the Walmart truck, was driving more than 20 miles per hour over posted speed limits, and had been awake for more than 24 hours prior to the accident. Morgan believes Roper fell asleep behind the wheel, causing the accident that killed Morgan’s friend and fellow comedian James McNair. The claim asserts that Walmart is responsible for Roper’s unsafe driving schedule and behavior on the road that night.
The high-profile case takes a fresh look at how companies that own and operate tractor-trailers are held responsible for their driver’s actions. There are already laws in place limiting how many consecutive hours a driver can operate a vehicle, as well as requirements for rest between rides. It remains a legal gray area, however, whether a company can be held responsible when a driver is reaching the limits of these restrictions, or exceeds them on their own volition.
There are also claims that the Walmart truck’s onboard safety features, including an automatic braking system, failed to activate. This system could have prevented the crash or at least limited the damage by slowing the tractor-trailer down when it sensed traffic slowing ahead. If the system wasn’t properly maintained, it may support the claim that Walmart was negligent.
In the end, these sorts of cases will likely be decided by the strength of their attorney’s arguments. The company will argue that it has proper policies in place, but the claimant can argue that the company hired a reckless driver. These sorts of cases highlight the importance of hiring an experienced attorney who make effective use of the existing traffic laws and secure compensation for their clients.
The attorneys at Mallon & McCool, LLC, encourage anyone who has been injured in a tractor-trailer accident to contact them at their Baltimore offices. Filing a claim against a trucking company can be difficult, but our lawyers will review the case, discuss all options and support their clients throughout the legal process.