Earlier this week, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Walmart submitted its defense in New Jersey federal court to actor Tracy Morgan’s lawsuit arising from a six-car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Among nine defenses, Walmart says that injuries “were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device.” Morgan is one of several people injured who are suing Walmart for negligence.
Their lawsuit, filed in July 2014, questions whether Walmart driver Kevin Roper was fatigued at the time of the crash. According to the suit, Roper had driven 700 miles from his home in Georgia to a Walmart facility in Smyrna, Delaware, before starting his shift.
“Walmart knew or should have known,” that Roper had been “awake for more than 24 consecutive hours” ahead of the crash, according to the suit.
In its filed answer, Walmart did not go into particulars about the crash. The corporation says it has been designated by the National Transportation Safety Board as a party in an investigation of the accident. Walmart cites transportation law as limiting their release of information in an ongoing investigation.
“Accordingly, absent entry of a Protective Order and adequate protections by the Court to maintain the confidential nature of Wal-Mart’s responses as required by the NTSB on-going investigation, Wal-Mart is unable to admit or deny” various allegations in the lawsuit.
Nevertheless, Walmart outlined its affirmative defenses to claims brought by Morgan, as well as Morgan’s assistant, Jeffrey Millea, his wife, Krista Millea, and comedian ArdieFuqua.
Failure to wear seat belts is one of those defenses. “By failing to exercise ordinary care in making use of available seat belts, upon information and belief, plaintiffs acted unreasonably and in disregard of plaintiffs’ own best interests,” states Walmart’s answer.
Walmart ‘s defense also includes disputing a basis for the negligence claim; disputing that actions were proximately caused by the company and its agents; disputing that Walmart had any control over third parties who may have caused damages; and disputing that it owed any duty to the plaintiffs.
An assessment of damages for the 30 Rock comedian-actor might be the next issue in the case. Walmart is demanding that plaintiffs furnish a written statement specifying the amount of damages alleged. The company is being represented by Jeffrey O’Hara of LeClairRyan.
According to Walmart officials, “Walmart filed its official response to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit earlier today, and the company continues to stand willing to work with Mr. Morgan and the other plaintiffs to resolve this matter.”