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Lawsuit filed following Tracy Morgan truck accident

Last month, an accident involving a limo-bus and a semi-truck left a veteran comedian dead and several others injured, including actor-comedian Tracy Morgan, who starred on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.”

Morgan and several colleagues were on their way home from a comedy show on June 7 when a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer careered into the back of the limo bus they were riding on after the truck driver failed to slow down for backed-up traffic.

After the crash, it was determined that the truck driver had not slept in over 24 hours and may have fallen asleep behind the wheel. The tragic accident started a nationwide discussion on driver fatigue in the trucking industry, a problem that appears to be getting worse despite strict regulations.

This week it was reported that Morgan has filed suit against Wal-Mart, alleging that negligence on behalf of the company contributed to the crash. Specifically, the lawsuit charges that Wal-Mart should have been aware that its driver had not slept in more than 24 hours and posed a danger to the public.

Other plaintiffs were also named in the suit, including two of Morgan’s colleagues who were also injured in the crash and the wife of an accident victim, who was not on the limo bus at the time. The wife states she is entitled to benefits based on “loss of services.”

Federal transportation safety investigators concluded that the driver of the truck had been working for 13.5 hours prior to the accident on June 7. Federal law only allows truckers to work up to 14 hours per day, which includes a maximum of 11 hours on the road.

The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages from the mega-company, which refers to damages that are in excess of compensatory damages -- which attempt to make accident victims “whole” -- and are intended to punish defendants for bad behavior.

The argument for punitive damages could depend on whether Wal-Mart knew or should have known that its employee drove while under-slept and whether this is a common occurrence among Wal-Mart drivers.

Source: Claims Journal, "Morgan Sues Wal-Mart a Month After Crash," Bruce Shipkowski, AP, July 14, 2014

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