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Walmart Claims Tracy Morgan at Fault for Crash Injuries

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 02, 2014 8:54 AM

Tracy Morgan is a bit perturbed that Walmart is blaming him for injuries he incurred in a crash with a Walmart truck.

The "30 Rock" actor said that he "can't believe Walmart is blaming me for an accident they caused," reports CNN. This claim comes a few months after Morgan sued the retail giant for negligence.

How could Walmart pin responsibility for Morgan's injuries on him?

No Seatbelts?

Morgan filed his lawsuit against Walmart in July, and on Monday, the big-box company filed its answer. In addition to denying liability for the injuries that Morgan and his crew received when their limo-bus was hit by a Walmart truck, Walmart alleged the damage was really Morgan and pals' fault.

CNN reports that Walmart's answer asserts Morgan's injuries were "caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs' failure to properly wear an appropriate available seat belt restraint device." Blaming the victim may not sound like the best argument from a public-relations standpoint, but it does have legal grounds.

Although a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that Walmart truck driver was speeding when he hit Morgan's vehicle, that doesn't mean that Walmart automatically loses. If a court finds that the SNL veteran was also negligent by not wearing a seatbelt, it could potentially reduce or even block his recovery in court.

Contributory Negligence/Comparative Fault

Contributory negligence laws can prevent a plaintiff like Morgan from recovering a portion or any damages if his negligence is responsible for his injuries. New Jersey, where the crash occurred, applies a "modified" form of contributory negligence, allowing plaintiffs to recover if their negligence is less than that of the defendants. Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered, has a similar view of negligence and recovery.

Under both states' laws, Morgan's recovery would be reduced based on a percentage of his fault as compared to Walmart's. Thus, if Walmart is found to be liable for $400,000 in damages but Morgan was found to be 10 percent negligent, he would likely only receive 90 percent of the total -- $360,000.

Since Morgan filed his case in federal court, it may be up to a federal judge to decide which state's laws to apply -- although they may be substantively the same.

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