Wal-Mart’s private fleet settles wrongful death suit from Tracy Morgan crash

Updated Mar 9, 2015
NTSB’s rendering of Roper’s truck following the accident.NTSB’s rendering of Roper’s truck following the accident.

The family of late comedian James McNair has reached an undisclosed wrongful death settlement with Wal-Mart and its private fleet, stemming from the high-profile June 2014 crash that killed McNair and left several others critically injured, including actor Tracy Morgan.

Daryl Zaslow, the McNair family’s attorney, said Wal-Mart “more than stepped up to the plate and took care of this family.”

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the company is working toward settlements with others injured in the crash.

Tracy Morgan and three others involved in the June 7 crash sued Wal-Mart following the crash. They claimed Wal-Mart acted negligently by allowing driver Kevin Roper to operate the vehicle. The victims allege Wal-Mart should have known about Roper’s  odd commute — an overnight 700-mile trek in his personal car from Georgia to Delaware.

Their lawsuit alleges Roper fell asleep at the wheel before rear-ending the Mercedes van carrying Morgan, McNair and the other victims. Roper reportedly had been awake for more than 24 hours preceding the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board also concluded in its investigation of the incident that Roper was driving 20 mph over the posted 45 mph speed limit.

Roper has been charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto, both of which he has pleaded not guilty to.

Wal-Mart, however, in a legal defense filed last year said it should not be liable for injuries sustained by Morgan and the other victims, as they were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash.

The crash ignited a debate among lawmakers about hours-of-service rules, as the crash came just after the Senate’s initial move to suspend certain provisions of the 2013 HOS rule. The enforcement suspension did eventually occur, however, when Congress passed the “cromnibus” 2015 appropriations bill.