Suit against Walmart in Tracy Morgan crash claims carrier violated hours rules, ‘negligent’ in oversight

| July 14, 2014
A 3D laser rendering from NTSB of the two key vehicles involved in the June 7 crash.

A 3D laser rendering from NTSB of the two key vehicles involved in the June 7 crash.

Four survivors of the June 7 New Jersey Turnpike truck crash that left comedian James McNair dead and actor Tracy Morgan in critical condition are suing Walmart Transportation, claiming the private carrier was “careless and negligent” in its oversight of drivers and equipment, which led to the crash, the lawsuit alleges.

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Tracy Morgan is among those suing. The suit was filed July 10.

The Walmart driver, Kevin Roper, reportedly was awake for 24 hours prior to the crash, though the National Transportation Safety Board in its preliminary crash report said he was within his hours-of-service limits, both in on-duty time and in driving time.

However, Roper had to commute in his personal vehicle 700 miles to the Walmart terminal in Delaware where he worked, the lawsuit notes and news outlets have reported. During the commute he was not on-duty. 

The lawsuit stems from Roper’s odd commute, alleging “Wal-Mart knew, or should have known, Mr. Roper was awake for more than 24 consecutive hours immediately before the subject accident.” The lawsuit alleges Roper fell asleep at the wheel, ultimately leading to the crash.

Walmart issued a statement responding to the lawsuit, saying it is cooperating with the investigation and is “committed to doing the right thing.”

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“This has been a terrible tragedy,” the statement says. “We wish Mr. Morgan, Mr. Fuqua Jr., and Mr. Millea full recoveries. Our thoughts continue to go out to them, their families and friends, as well as to the families and friends of everyone involved, including Mr. McNair who lost his life. We are deeply sorry that one of our trucks was involved. As we’ve said, we’re cooperating fully in the ongoing investigation. We know it will take some time to resolve all of the remaining issues as a result of the accident, but we’re committed to doing the right thing for all involved.”

The suit also accuses Walmart of intentionally and regularly violating federal hours-of-service limits for drivers, saying it “condoned this practice of its drivers routinely violating” federal rules.

The private fleet also failed to factor in driver commutes into its scheduling, the suit claims.

“Wal-Mart had a custom and practice of recklessly and intentionally allowing its drivers to drive for prolonged and unreasonable periods of time, making them exceedingly vulnerable to suffer from fatigue,” the suit reads, adding that it also “recklessly and intentionally failed to take proper measures to combat” driver fatigue.

Lastly, the suit alleges the Walmart truck involved in the crash was equipped with an autonomous braking system, which did not deploy prior to the accident. Walmart “knew or should have known” the autonomous braking system was “compromised,” the lawsuit claims.

In addition to Morgan, comedian Ardley Fuqua Jr. is a plaintiff, along with Morgan’s personal assistant, Jeffrey Millea, and Millea’s wife Krista. The group — along with two others, including James McNair — were traveling in a Mercedes Sprinter van from one comedy show, where they were performing, to another.

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They’re seeking actual, compensatory and statutory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees and court costs.

Roper has been charged with counts of vehicular homicide and assault by auto, to which he has pleaded not guilty. NTSB’s report concluded that Roper was traveling more than 20 mph over the posted 45 mph speed limit.

The crash also made the debate over the 2013 hours-of-service rule a national issue, causing lawmakers and celebrities to condemn Senate action in June to rollback certain HOS regs.

The Senate’s annual Department of Transportation funding bill includes an amendment that would suspend two of the 2013 rule’s 34-hour restart provisions, including the once-per-week limit and the requirement that the restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker proposed an amendment to strip that amendment from the bill. However, the bill has been idle in the Senate for nearly a month now.

  • Mark Hayward

    Hi Jack Simon……….. I am not confusing 4 wheelers with commercial trucks I was comparing them.
    I am 53 years old I have been driving trucks since I was 17 years old. I was operating a 3.25 yard front end loader at age 9. I have 3 dragline cranes. for example a Northwest Model 6 with 55 foot of boom and a 1.5 yard bucket. My main truck for lime spreading is a 1968 FWD 6 wheel drive. I replaced an IH RD-501 gas engine and fuller 5 speed with a brand new 3208 CAT and a Eaton RTO 6610 that I rebuilt my self back in 1985. The FWD has 19,500 hours since I rescued it from the Junk yard. I put 179,000 miles on it not on highways much many miles in rough farmers fields at 5-20 mph spreadng lime or Turkey shit. I pull a loader on a tandem tag along trailer behind this truck and I pull a Geo tracker car behind that and some times pull a fuel tank on a trailer behind that. I have an Oshkosh former M-911 truck.. It has Eaton 65,000 # tandem and #25,000 driving front axle 450 HO 8-V-92 Detroit. I have a 1986 Freightliner that was a Glider kit with 400 Cummins and 13 Speed Eaton trans. It has 44,000 Rockwell rears and an 18,000 # front axle.. but it does not have lockers like it needs. I also have an 8 wheel drive FWD dump truck with full lockers for all 8 wheels. I have two Big-A 4500′s they have 66″x 43″ X 25 wheels 4 wheel drive 4 wheel steer. 903 Cummins 350 HP Allison 5 speed automatics.
    You are right I am not a Fat ASS LAZY Mindless Steering wheel Holder.. that is too fat and Lazy to do any other type of work because he is too fat and is a heart attack waiting to happen..
    Remember I said 50% of all Commercial Truck drivers are fat and too Lazy to do any other job. I have a lot of respect for some truck drivers and very littler for others. There are millions of Truck drivers from all back grounds and life styles and forms of education.
    Some are very Professional and skilled drivers and others don’t have enough brains to change the oil in a 4 wheeler. Lately I have dealt with some really stupid less than truck load deliver drivers.. It’s just amazing how stupid some of them are. They can’t even back a single trailer.
    I had a Chauffeurs License for year then of course upgraded to CDL when it was required.. Driving a truck with a 10 speed off road 14 hours per day or more in the busy season…I make thousands of perfectly smooth clutch less shifts per day often in very soft ground. I have double dump trailers for my Freight liner but have used the pup very little.. that’s 11 axles and 160,000 gross in Michigan.
    As far as every 4 wheeler being monitored by the Government, If all the Libtards out there keep voting for Communists like Obama, they will do it. First GM has ONSTAR if the Government wants to find you or track you they can with the same things that are in Commercial trucks now. Or if you have a smart phone or cell phone they can track you anywhere and every where. Even on foot.
    My point really was that Government Regulations are just a power play to collect more revenue and create more Government jobs that suck profits from our Economy.
    Yet there are idiots out there that can’t be personally responsible if they think they can drive 700 miles in a car then start their normal trucking shift of 14 hours..
    Business is changing and my business is getting more seasonal. I could actually make more money just driving a truck for really long house like in an Oil field in ND or PA. At lest if I was driving a truck I would have some free time to do some running and join a Gym so I don’t look like your average Morbidly Obese truck driver that is a heart attack waiting to happen.

    It reminds me of the time I got pulled over by a DOT on a Local road. it was raining out and he pulled me over and asked me what do I have . I told him that I have a Lime spreader Truck….. He said “NO WHAT YOU HAVE HERE IS A MOBILE CAR WASH” It was raining out and he pulled me over because he said my mud flaps were not long enough. Meanwhile being near a Concrete Company I observed many Cement trucks passing by throwing up a huge mist of water that had much shorter mud flaps than mine. Water was not comming off from my tries it was a mist caused by the vaccum of the truck going down the road at 45-50 mph I knew how to time every light for 8 miles so I went what ever speed necessary to make all lights if possible.. If I knew I couldn’t make the nect light I would coast and piss all the 4 wheeler off. but making 5-6 trips per day on the same 13 mile route you can figure the lights out.
    I never did get a ticket because there was an accident up the road and the DOT rushed off to that taking my Drivers License with him.. He hung a huge U-turn and brought it back however.
    Mind you I raced Motocross and Competed in Mogul skiing Contests at a Professional level so I am athletic. Anyway , a friend told me I should have asked for a Road Side Physical. The DOT guy had been asking me Physical Status.. The guy was a total jerk and made me any. My friend told me that a Road Side Physical is a fist fight. The DOT guy looked like a Donuts addict too. I did manage to keep my cool and be polite with him but he sure was an arrogant jerk.
    I also once got pulled over by a small town Cop who had DOT training and his wife ran off with a Trucker. I knew his reputation cause I worked with the local waste haulers who had all been harassed in his 2 traffic light town that has the highway that goes to the landfill going through it..

    He gave me a ticket for speeding even though I was not speeding and for not having the correct endorsement on my Chauffeurs License. The Secretary of State had made a mistake that I got corrected and I proved in court that I was not speeding and got the ticket dropped.
    If I do start doing over the road trucking I want to drive for a big company not be an owner Operator because I am tired of all of the paper work and I don’t need the extra stress the DOT causes by finding and harassing truckers.

    I drove with another guy from MI to LA one time to pick up a set of crane matts.. We both had coveralls and crawled under his truck and adjusted the clutch in a truck stop parking lot.. All the fat lazy company drivers looked at us like we were crazy.. I change all my own tires and rebuild rear end and transmissions. I have rebuilt gas engines but have not done a diesel yet.. I have a couple that need to be rebuilt though so I probably will do it. I own a shop manual for pretty much every piece of equipment I own.. I didn’t even mention farm equipment.
    The Trucking Industry is a prime Example of an Industry that the Government is hurting by overvaluation with laws that don’t have a lot of common sense.]
    yet there still are a few idiots out there that do drugs drink a lot of try driving a 4 wheeler 700 miles before starting a 14 hour shift .. thus the Movement and always claim their Regulators are necessary..

    I have work to do so can’t tell any stories about OSHA or MESHA ect or EPA and DEQ getting permits to dig a pond with one of my cranes ect,

  • Suzi North

    Did the driver of the van stop in front of the driver and did anyone test the vans driver to see what he had in his system like drugs or was he drunk? No they attacked the truck driver and did not know his statues about his driving hours. They always say this the driver was over on their hours etc. Always the drivers fault.

  • Suzi North

    Hey Jack Simon I like so far what you have said until you said about speeding? You have a problem with speeding. I drove an 1693 and it took me every where I needed to go it yes it was a large car 36″ crawl thro sleeper and 15 gears with four on the floor. It took me 17 hours from Ok-City to Barstow, California and had time to joke around and take a nap then go onto LA to deliver my chickens or to the No. Cali. Speeding I did that like the best of them. When you have a large car you don’t drive 55 just to stay alive. I ran fast and I was good you have to be a good driver to run over 100 mph plus but then again we all did and I ran solo. So speeding I have no problem with that, just don’t get caught if you have a large car, but then again W/Mart their is not a large car in their fleet.

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  • Slacker 1

    Them junky conversion van have no protection any one going after the the conversion company. Hu what about that.

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