NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Tracy Morgan is firing back at Walmart a day after the company suggested he was responsible for injuries suffered after being struck from behind by a company truck in June.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based corporation said in a court filing Monday that Morgan and his fellow passengers were partially to blame for their injuries because they were not wearing seatbelts.
Walmart made the claim in New Jersey federal court in response to a lawsuit Morgan filed in July. Morgan is suing the company for negligence.
“By failing to exercise ordinary care in making use of available seatbelts, upon information and belief, plaintiffs acted unreasonably and in disregard of plaintiffs’ own best interests,” Walmart said in their filing.
“After I heard what Walmart said in court I felt I had to speak out. I can’t believe Walmart is blaming me for an accident that they caused,” Morgan said Tuesday. “My friends and I were doing nothing wrong. I want to thank my fans for sticking with me during this difficult time. I love you all. I’m fighting hard every day to get back.”
The June 7 accident on the New Jersey Turnpike killed Comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, 62, of Peekskill, a friend of Morgan’s who was accompanying the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star back from a show in Delaware.
Jeffrey Millea, of Shelton, Conn., and comedian Ardie Fuqua, who opened up for Morgan, were critically injured. Thirty minutes before the crash, Fuqua posted photos from the show and bus, along with the caption “Road life is a good life.”
Comedian Harris Stanton suffered a broken wrist in the crash.
Authorities say the truck driver, Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours before the crash.
Federal regulations limit truckers to 11 hours of driving during a 14-hour work day, with no more than 70 hours a week on the road without extra breaks. Drivers who are too sleepy to drive safely must pull over, according to the regulations.
The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks rose between 2009 and 2012 after a four-year decline. Fatigue is a major factor in many of these accidents. Thirteen percent of crashes involve a driver who is not properly rested, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The section of the Turnpike in Cranbury where the crash took place is even notorious by New Jersey Turnpike standards. It has been called “the Big Road,” “the Monster,” and “the Black Dragon.”
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