Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seat belts during a June highway accident that left a fellow comedian dead, Wal-Mart alleged Monday in its response to his lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in July in U.S. District Court in New Jersey by Morgan and three other survivors of the crash, alleges that Wal-Mart was negligent when the driver of one of its tractor trailers struck Morgan’s limousine on the New Jersey Turnpike the night of June 6.
Wal-Mart’s response was that Morgan and the others injured in the limo could have avoided being hurt by wearing seat belts.
“Plaintiffs’ injuries, if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device,” Wal-Mart’s Monday filing said. “By failing to exercise ordinary care in making use of available seatbelts … plaintiffs acted unreasonably and in disregard of plaintiffs’ own best interests.”
The retailer also denied or, citing a confidential ongoing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, declined to respond to nearly all the allegations presented in Morgan’s lawsuit.
The suit alleges that Wal-Mart “knew or should have known” that Kevin Roper, the 35-year-old Georgia man who was driving the tractor trailer, had been awake for more than 24 consecutive hours when the crash occurred.
James McNair, 63, a comedian better known by his stage name Jimmy Mack, died in the accident.
Morgan was initially hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a broken nose, ribs and leg in the crash. He was moved about two weeks later to a rehab facility, and in July he was spotted using a walker in New York City as he left a doctor’s office.
The other plaintiffs are comedian Ardie Fuqua; Morgan’s assistant, Jeffrey Millea; and Millea’s wife, Krista Millea, who was eight months’ pregnant.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the retailer “continues to stand willing to work with Mr. Morgan and the other plaintiffs to resolve this matter.”
Times staff writers Javier Panzar and Christie D’Zurilla contributed to this report.
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