NEW YORK (Reuters) - Comedian Tracy Morgan, who was injured in a road accident that caused the death of his friend, was incredulous on Tuesday that retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc blamed him and others in the vehicle for their injuries, saying they were not wearing seat belts.
In a court filing on Monday in response to a lawsuit filed by Morgan and three other plaintiffs over the June 7 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, Wal-Mart said the injuries were caused in whole or in part by their failure to wear an appropriate restraint device.
“After I heard what Wal-Mart said in court I felt I had to speak out,” Morgan, 45, said in a statement. “I can’t believe Wal-Mart is blaming me for an accident that they caused. My friends and I were doing nothing wrong.”
Morgan and his friends have neither confirmed nor denied that they were using seat belts when the accident occurred.
Wal-Mart said that by failing to use seat belts, the passengers “upon information and belief, acted unreasonably and in disregard” of their best interests.
Wal-Mart said on Tuesday that it was committed to working to resolve all the issues resulting from the accident.
“While we were required to respond to the lawsuit, we have also taken steps to encourage settlement discussions. Our thoughts continue to go out to everyone involved, and we remain committed to doing what’s right,” Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement.
Morgan, who starred in the TV show “30 Rock” and the late night comedy sketch show “Saturday Night Live,” suffered a broken leg and nose and several broken ribs. His friend, comedian James McNair, died after the Wal-Mart truck slammed into the back of their chauffeured limo bus, flipping it over.
The comedian spent weeks in hospital and rehabilitation recovering from his injuries.
Morgan and the other plaintiffs, comedian Ardie Fuqua, Morgan’s assistant, Jeffrey Millea and Millea’s wife, Krista Millea, claimed in their July 10 lawsuit that Wal-Mart knew or should have known its truck driver, Kevin Roper, had been awake for more than 24 hours before the crash and should not have been on the road.
Roper was driving about 20 miles per hour (32 km per hour) over the speed limit just before the crash, according to federal investigators. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular homicide and assault-by-auto.
Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy, Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker