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Tracy Morgan's Walmart Suit Can Move Forward: Judge

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 15, 2014 11:15 AM

A federal court judge ruled on Friday that comedian Tracy Morgan can move forward with a lawsuit against retailer Walmart for injuries Morgan suffered in a fatal crash earlier this year.

The ruling came after Kevin Roper -- the driver of the Walmart truck that slammed into Morgan's tour bus on the New Jersey turnpike -- had filed a motion asking the court to delay Morgan's lawsuit, reports the Associated Press.

Roper is not named as a defendant in Morgan's lawsuit. However, he had argued that the lawsuit may affect his criminal case stemming from the crash.

Crash Claimed the Life of 1, Injured 3

The crash at the center of Morgan's lawsuit occurred in June as Morgan and several other individuals, including comedian James McNair, were returning from a comedy show in Delaware. A semi-truck driven by Roper rammed into the back of the bus carrying Morgan and the others, causing it to flip. McNair was killed in the crash. Morgan and two other passengers were injured.

Following the crash, Morgan filed a negligence lawsuit against Walmart claiming that the retailer was responsible for the accident. According to the lawsuit, the company should have known that Roper was driving the truck on too little sleep; at the time of the accident, Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours.

In truck accident injury cases, unrealistic schedules and expectations on the part of employers can lead drivers to disregard safety risks. Compensation systems encouraging more hours of consecutive vehicle operation than is safe may also lead to accidents caused by driver fatigue.

Criminal Case Against Driver

Following the crash, Roper was charged with vehicular homicide, also known as "death by auto" under New Jersey state law. In his motion seeking to delay Morgan's lawsuit against Walmart, Roper had argued that the civil case may have a negative effect on his criminal case. In his ruling, however, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp found that Roper had not sufficiently shown his need for relief.

Morgan's attorneys characterized Roper's attempt to delay the lawsuit as a stalling tactic by Walmart in order to avoid disclosing the company's safety practices, reports the Associated Press.

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