The family of the late James McNair, 63, good friend and mentor of “30 Rock” and Saturday Night Live” comedian Tracy Morgan, announced last month that it settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart. Mr. McNair, along with Mr. Morgan and three other friends, were travelling home from a comedy club performance in Dover, Delaware, and were on the New Jersey Turnpike on June 7, 2014, when Morgan’s Mercedes limousine bus was struck in the rear by a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer operated by Kevin Roper.
Roper, 35, had apparently been operating the tractor-trailer for more than 24 hours straight in violation of federal D.O.T regulations. The National Transportation Safety Board performed an investigation of the accident. In its investigation, the NTSB determined that Roper was operating the vehicle at 65 miles per hour in the seconds before the truck struck the rear of the Morgan vehicle, suggesting that he either fell asleep or was distracted prior to the crash. The initial impact led to a chain reaction crash with another tractor-trailer, an SUV and two other cars.
In the accident, Mc. McNair apparently died at the scene as a result of his injuries. McNair was from Peekskill, New York and was a close friend of Mr. Morgan. Morgan sustained traumatic brain injuries, a fractured femur, several broken ribs and a broken nose. He was hospitalized in critical condition for several weeks. Another occupant of the Mercedes, 37 year old Harris Stanton, suffered a fractured wrist in the accident.
Mr. McNair left behind two children, ages 19 and 26, who were the plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their father. Mr. Morgan has a separate lawsuit against Wal-Mart for the injuries he suffered in the accident, which is not settled and is pending in federal Court in New Jersey. There is also a pending criminal action against Mr. Roper in Middlesex County, New Jersey, in which he is facing four counts of vehicular assault and one count of “death by auto” as the result of the death of Mr. McNair.
In early December, Mr. Roper’s criminal attorneys attempted to adjourn the civil case until the criminal case against Mr. Roper was concluded. However, this petition was denied as failing to prove how Mr. Roper was prejudiced by allowing Mr. Morgan’s case to proceed, and as an effort by Wal-Mart to simply delay the Morgan action. Morgan’s attorneys also successfully argued that any verdict in the civil action against Wal-Mart, in which Mr. Roper is not a defendant, is not admissible in the criminal action against him. However, there is no doubt that any testimony that Roper gives in the civil case for compensation for Morgan can be used by prosecutors as sworn evidence in the criminal case, and as is well known, many defendants choose to remain silent and not testify in criminal cases.
Mr. Roper is out on $50,000 bail in the criminal case, which is still pending.
If you or a loved one suffer serious injuries in a car crash, bus accident or truck accident, contact the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 for a free initial consultation to discuss your case in detail with an experienced litigator.