Walmart says Tracy Morgan should have worn a seat belt

Posted at 11:39 PM, Sep 29, 2014

(CNN) — Walmart has responded to a lawsuit filed by Tracy Morgan over a deadly car crash that left the comedian in critical condition. The big box store blamed the injuries suffered by Morgan on his failure to wear a seat belt.

Walmart filed a 28-page response to a complaint by lawyers acting for Morgan and three others. Police said a truck driven by Walmart employee Kevin Roper collided with the rear of the vehicle in which Morgan was riding.

Roper pleaded not guilty in June to criminal charges that include vehicular homicide and assault by auto.

Morgan’s lawsuit said Walmart was careless and negligent in the operation of the vehicle. It said the company should have known Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the accident, and cited Walmart for not complying with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations enacted to combat the dangers of driver fatigue.

The Walmart truck that rear-ended Morgan’s vehicle was traveling 20 mph over the speed limit, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The “30 Rock” and former “Saturday Night Live” star was seriously injured in June after the truck slammed into a limo bus occupied by Morgan and four others on the New Jersey Turnpike. The crash killed the star’s longtime friend, comedian James McNair, and injured the other passengers. Morgan was hospitalized with broken ribs, a broken nose and a broken leg.

In its response, Walmart said the injuries were “caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seat belt restraint device.” The company said by not using seat belts, the plaintiffs “acted unreasonably and in disregard of plaintiffs’ own best interests.”

Walmart did not directly address the claims regarding Roper because of the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

Walmart said Morgan’s and the other plaintiffs’ damages were not caused by the company or any of its affiliated employees. Instead, the chain noted the possibility that injuries “may have been caused by third parties over whom Walmart had no control.”

The next step for Morgan’s side is to file a written statement specifying the amount of damages alleged in the initial complaint. Walmart is asking for a trial by jury.

Representatives for Morgan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.