NEWARK, NJ—Attorneys for entertainer Tracy Morgan were vindicated in court Friday when US District Court Judge Michael Shipp ruled that Morgan's civil case against Walmart can move forward, without waiting for the outcome of a related criminal case.
Morgan's lawyers accused Walmart of engaging in unfair tactics to delay the comedian’s negligence suit against them over a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury Township.
The attorney for Kevin Roper, the Walmart truck driver who allegedly caused the fatal Middlesex County crash that injured Morgan this summer, had asked that the case be delayed until after Roper's criminal trial concluded.
The crash which killed one person and injured three others, including Morgan, was caused by Roper, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.
The truck driver, who hails from Georgia, is currently being prosecuted for death by auto and assault by auto in Middlesex County Superior Court.
In federal court, Morgan and two other survivors of the crash, Ardie Fuqua and Jeffrey Millea, are suing Walmart for personal injuries in a separate civil suit.
Krista Millea, the wife of Jeffrey Millea, is also suing for loss of consortium, on the grounds that her husband could not perform his duties as a husband on account of his injuries. She was 8 months pregnant at the time of the accident.
The plaintiffs are claiming that Walmart knew, or should have known, that Roper’s hours were not in compliance with federal safety regulations.
They claim Walmart knew, or should have known, that Roper was awake for more than 24 hours before the accident and that Walmart should have known that it was unreasonable for Roper to commute over 700 miles to work.
Roper had requested to have the civil case's discovery phase, where both side exchanges records and information, halted until his criminal case is settled.
Roper’s attorney argued that Morgan’s civil case against Walmart could provide prosecutors an additional forum to obtain evidence which could be used against Roper in his criminal case, saying it could undermine his defense and violate his constitutional right to due process.
Roper’s motion stated, “The civil discovery process is likely to result in forcing Roper to testify about his actions, or have those actions described by others, to which he could not defend against, short of waiving his right against self-incrimination.”
Morgan’s attorneys claim that Walmart was behind Roper’s request to halt discovery in the civil case in an effort to stall the civil case.
Roper is not a defendant in Morgan’s lawsuit at this time, and Morgan’s attorneys called his request to halt the discovery of the trial “suspect.”
Walmart is the nation's largest retailer by a wide margin, according to the National Retail Federation.