Comedian Tracy Morgan has filed a personal injury lawsuit against WalMart for injuries he sustained last month when the chauffeur-driven limo-van in which he was riding along with friend James McNair was hit by a WalMart big rig known to be driven way too fast by a truck driver who was at the least drowsy and at the most, asleep at the wheel. The trucker has been charged with vehicular manslaughter in the accident because sadly, Mr. McNair died from his injuries.
Tracy Morgan survived and is recovering from serious injuries (there were rumors that he would lose a leg; luckily, that didn’t happen). The next step for Tracy Morgan, after his physical condition is stablized and recovery plans are underway, is the same as it is for lots of injury victims: suing those responsible for the accident and their resulting harm.
Popular Comedian Tracy Morgan Sues WalMart
An important twist to this story, however, is that WalMart, the owner of the semi truck and the employee of the truck driver, has been made a defendant in the case. WalMart is being held responsible for the crash in Morgan’s pleadings and this is important not just for Morgan’s case but for injury victims everywhere.
1. This lawsuit will focus upon WalMart’s standard operating procedures regarding its truck drivers. Is WalMart putting profits over people and pushing its truck drivers past reasonable limits just to get cargo delivered as fast as possible to WalMart stores? What are the company rules for WalMart truck drivers on the road?
2. Was this WalMart truck driver covered by the 40 hour work week (with overtime paid thereafter) established in the Fair Labor Standards Act — or is this driver not covered by this work week law? Many truck drivers aren’t paid by time, they are paid my mile driven on the road. Was the trucker feeling pressure to keep driving to make his paycheck? Should truckers be paid by the mile in this country?
3. Was this truck driver a member of a labor union? What is their involvement here? It’s known that WalMart sees labor unions as a challenge to the company’s bottom line, maybe the driver was not a member of a labor union. If he was, then what part does the union play in this lawsuit?
4. Was the truck itself routinely serviced and in proper working order? What are WalMart’s practices for making sure that its company trucks are safe on the road?
5. Did WalMart have any reason to know or be concerned that this driver might not be driving safely on the road? It is alleged, for instance, that WalMart was negligent and reckless when it assigned a driver who lives in Georgia to a company facility in Delaware. That is a 700 mile commute.
From the pleadings: “[T]here were many Wal-Mart distribution facilities closer to Mr. Roper’s home—including at least nine in Georgia alone—which would have significantly reduced Mr. Roper’s commute to work.”
WalMart Truck Driver Lawsuit Important for Other Accident Victims
This lawsuit is important to other injury victims, both those who have been or may be involved in accidents with WalMart owned or operated vehicles as well as those trucks driven by other major company retailers, who share the roads with us.
Companies will try to point the finger at the truck driver, or the road conditions, or the other driver, or even an “Act of God,” but the reality is that corporations — especially multi-million dollar national and international concerns (like WalMart and its competitors) — are going to try and avoid responsibility for these crashes as well as the responsibility for taking safety precautions against these kinds of accidents because both prevention and liability impact their bottom line. (Forbes has written on WalMart investors being concerned about this case, FYI.)
Tracy Morgan’s fame may help lots of Americans realize that these big companies are known for cutting costs to the bone in order to jack their profits as high as possible, and that things need to change. Big rig crashes, tragically, often involve someone dying in the wreck – and it’s usually someone who isn’t as well protected from the force of the crash as the truck driver in the semi-truck cab.
Justice for these victims can come from individual claims and lawsuits; in the public arena that Tracy Morgan’s lawsuit will play out, maybe justice will be served by changes made in the law, in an industry-wide, national scope.