It was almost exactly one year ago when actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and several of his friends were hit by a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer while traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike after a show. Morgan's close friend and mentor, James "Jimmy Mack" McNair, was killed. Morgan sustained broken bones and a traumatic brain injury from which he has been unable to fully recover. Two other friends were also injured in the wreck.
At first, it seemed as if the retail giant planned to deny liability for the accident. In court filings last September, Wal-Mart blamed Morgan and his companions for not wearing seat belts while riding in the limo-van. As you may know, under New Jersey law it matters a great deal whether the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit contributed to their own injuries by their own negligence. If the plaintiff can be shown to have been more negligent than the defendant, the plaintiff's compensation is reduced proportionally.
Although the case hasn't gone to a jury, the question of comparative negligence seemed pretty clear-cut, however. The driver, a Wal-Mart employee, was allegedly speeding -- 65 mph in a 45 mph construction zone. He may also have been awake for more than 24 hours before running into the back of the limo-van and setting off a multi-vehicle pileup.
Wal-Mart has been settling the accident claims amicably behind the scenes
In March, we learned that the retailing giant had settled the wrongful death claim brought by James McNair's children for $10 million. Just recently, it was announced that Morgan has also settled with Wal-Mart -- amicably, for an undisclosed amount -- and it appears the other plaintiffs will also receive settlements.
Morgan, best known for his roles on "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live" still struggles every day with his brain injury. He had hoped to appear on the 40th anniversary show of "Saturday Night Live" but was unable to. In a statement, he said that Wal-Mart "did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families. I am grateful that the case was resolved amicably."
Whenever there's a major accident on a New Jersey freeway, injured people suffer. Many can't wait for a court battle before they pay their medical bills and other expenses, so it's good news when the responsible people step up and agree to a full and fair settlement.