Comedians Tracy Morgan and Ardie Fuqua, and Morgan’s personal assistant Jeffrey Millea and his wife Krista Millea, have filed a joint lawsuit against Walmart for the deadly New Jersey Turnpike crash last month that critically wounded Morgan, Fuqua and Millea and killed a fourth passenger, comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.
Their complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, asks for damages as well as a jury trial, claiming Walmart acted negligently, allowing one of its drivers — Kevin Roper — to work after being up more than 24 hours.
“As a result of Wal-Mart’s gross, reckless, willful, wanton, and intentional conduct, it should be appropriately punished with the imposition of punitive damages,” the complaint reads, in part.
A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found Roper was driving 65 mph in a 45 mph construction zone along the Turnpike at the time of the crash in the midnight hour of June 7. Furthermore, Roper had logged 13 hours 32 minutes at the time of the collision; the law allows a maximum 14-hour consecutive duty period for commercial motor vehicle drivers.
Morgan, Fuqua and Millea were critically wounded and spent weeks in the hospital before being transferred to outside rehab facilities, where their recoveries will be slow.
“As a direct and proximate result of the physical injuries sustained by Mr. Morgan in the collision, he has been in capacitated from pursuing his usual employment and other activities, may be left with disabilities that will in the future similarly incapacitate him and cause him pain and suffering, and may require medical treatment,” the complaint reads.
Morgan was set to star in his own untitled sitcom for FX Networks on FXX. Production on that has been postponed due to the crash to allow for his recovery.
Roper, from Jonesboro, Georgia, pleaded not guilty last month to criminal charges that include vehicular homicide and assault by auto.
In a statement, Walmart replied publicly: “This has been a terrible tragedy. 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.”