NOT LAUGHING! Tracy Morgan “can’t believe Wal-Mart is blaming me” for injuries
Tracy Morgan isn’t amused that Wal-Mart is blaming him for the injuries he suffered when one of its truck drivers smashed into him on the New Jersey Turnpike — injuries that may have ended his stand-up career, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Tracy Morgan isn’t amused that Wal-Mart is blaming him for the injuries he suffered when one of their truck drivers smashed into him on the New Jersey Turnpike — injuries that may have ended his stand-up career, his lawyer said Tuesday.
“He’s very upset,” Benedict Morelli told the Daily News of his client’s reaction to Wal-Mart’s blame-the-victims defense.
“He’s struggling every day, fighting hard just to get incrementally better, and they hit him with this.”
In a statement, the funny man said, “After I heard what Wal-Mart said in court I felt I had to speak out. I can’t believe Wal-Mart is blaming me for an accident that they caused. My friends and I were doing nothing wrong.”
In court filings Monday, the retail giant said injuries suffered by Morgan and his fellow passengers, Jeffrey Millea and Ardley Fuqua, “if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt device.”
The lawyer called Wal-Mart’s arguments responding to the negligence suit he filed on behalf of the victims “callous” and “disingenuous.”
Seatbelts had nothing to do with it.
“Seatbelts had nothing to do with it,” Morelli said
He noted that Morgan’s limousine bus was “at a dead stop” because of road work on June 7 when “it was hit in the rear by a tractor trailer going 65 miles per hour.”
“The driver never braked, never swerved,” Morelli said, and smashed straight into the limo, killing Morgan’s comedian pal James (Jimmy Mack) McNair, and severely injuring Morgan, Millea and Fuqua.
The driver, Kevin Roper, has been charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto.
“It wasn’t the seatbelts,” Morelli said.
He noted the police report said seatbelts weren’t an issue in the case — and that none of the occupants can remember if they were wearing them or not.
Morgan, Millea and Fuqua all suffered traumatic brain injuries in the crash, and don’t remember it, the Morelli, Alters, Ratner lawyer said.
He said all three need to undergo more surgeries, and undergo hours of rehab treatment every day.
Their treatments include speech therapy and cognitive therapy, the lawyer said.
“They’re trying to get their brains to work the way they worked before the accident,” Morelli said.
He said it’s unclear whether Morgan, 45, will be able to resume his stand-up career.
“He’s been offered his own show, a movie — he can’t do any of those things” right now, he said.
“He spends hours and hours a day in rehab, struggling and fighting to get better,” Morelli said.
“It can’t even be assessed, what the outcome is going to be.”
He noted that both Morgan and Fuqua are standup comics. “They need to be razor sharp. They need to think on their feet. They need to be so right on the edge.”
Asked if the “30 Rock” star would ever be able to get back on stage, he said, “I don’t know the answer.”
Also galling to Morelli was Wal-Mart’s refusal to admit to even basic information in their response to the victims’ lawsuit.
“They won’t admit the driver works for them or that he’s a truck driver,” Morelli said, accusing the company of talking out of both sides of its mouth.
“They say publicly if we were involved in this accident we will take full responsibility and then they won’t even admit Roper’s their driver. . . It’s despicable.”
“They know they caused this accident,” Morelli said, and they should pay for it — big time.
“They want to play hardball? I invented it,” Morelli said. “Bring it.”
In the meantime, Morelli said, Morgan will continue to “fight” through his injuries — which also included broken ribs and a broken leg — to reclaim his life.
He said the former “Saturday Night Live” star has been getting psychiatric help to deal with the trauma of the accident, which he blames himself for.
“He’s so upset. One of his friends died in the accident. He hasn’t gotten over that,” Morelli said.
“Jeff was his assistant. Artie was his opening act. They were there because of him. He feels responsible for these people,” which is one reason why Wal-Mart’s legal tactic hit him so hard.
And while the comic, who Morelli spoke to on Monday, is “emotionally very upset” with the big box retailer, he’s been very moved by the outpouring of support for him in the months since the accident.
“Tracy loves the fact everyone cares about him so much,” Morelli said.
In his statement, Morgan said, “I want to thank my fans for sticking with me during this difficult time. I love you all. I’m fighting hard every day to get back.”
In its own statement, Wal-Mart said it “is committed to working to resolve all of the remaining issues as a result of the accident.
“As part of the ordinary course of legal proceedings, Wal-Mart filed an initial response yesterday to the lawsuit that included facts and defenses that may impact the case moving forward. 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.”