Tracy Morgan Case Puts TBI in the Spotlight

When it comes to corporate liability cases, even being a celebrity doesn’t help your case.

"Tracy Morgan standup 1" by Alex Erde from Scarsdale, United States - DSC_0161Uploaded by Jamie jca. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Tracy Morgan standup 1” by Alex Erde from Scarsdale, United States – DSC_0161 Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the case of 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan against Walmart, the big box store is denying charges that one of its truck drivers was kept working past the federal limit of 11 hours driving in a 14-hour period. Instead, the chain is pointing fingers back at Morgan, saying that his injuries were caused by his own failure to wear a seatbelt.

The Facts of the Case

Last August, famed comedian and actor Tracy Morgan was being chauffeured on the New Jersey Turnpike in a limo bus when, at about 1 a.m., his vehicle was hit by a tractor-trailer belonging to Walmart. Morgan’s vehicle was struck from behind before it rotated and overturned. According to CNN, “the collision killed Morgan’s fellow passenger, comedian James McNair, who performed under the name Jimmy Mack … Comedians Ardie Fuqua and Harris Stanton were among the injured, as was a man named Jeffrey Millea.”

Morgan himself sustained several injuries: broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken leg and a broken femur, and a subdural hematoma that put him in a coma for several days. Five months afterward, Morgan’s attorney stated that the star’s continuing struggles may indicate permanent brain damage.

Shifting Blame

At the time, Walmart CEO and president Bill Simon made this statement: “This is a tragedy, and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved. The facts are continuing to unfold. If it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility.”

Walmart Supercentre storefrontBut as soon as Morgan and his fellow passengers launched a lawsuit against the corporation, Walmart began pointing blame back to Morgan, saying that the injuries were “caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seat belt restraint device.”

This comes despite the fact that New Jersey State Police fingered truck driver Kevin Roper as being at fault for failing to observe and respond to the slow-moving traffic ahead of him. At the time, Roper turned himself in directly after the accident; in court, however, he ended up pleading not guilty to criminal charges of vehicular homicide and assault by automobile.

Shining a Light on TBI

Morgan’s situation has led to some prominent media attention around traumatic brain injury, from Associated Press and CNN reports to industry news sites such as Entertainment Tonight and gossip columns like PerezHilton.com. The Daily Beast published an extensive summary of the long-term effects of TBI:

“It is often the least visible but sometimes deadliest of injuries: traumatic brain injury (TBI). … Even milder TBIs (aka concussions) can lead to major consequences when repeatedly administered. Recovery from TBIs can highly vary, and per Tracy Morgan’s lawyer’s statement, despite an intensive rehabilitation regimen, the star has been struggling and might have some permanent damage from his injuries.”

Statements like this are old news to those who have suffered TBI themselves, or who has seen a loved one through it. However, the publicity surrounding Morgan’s pending case against Walmart may offer hope to others in similar circumstances, whose recovery depends on receiving compensation that will give them access to optimal care.

About the Brain Injury Law Center

At the Brain Injury Law Center, we are experienced in helping victims of traumatic head injury obtain the resources they need to secure treatment and recover their quality of life. Call us to learn more about how we can help you.

image credit: The Daily Beast 

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