Last month, we discussed how a tragic trucking accident on the New Jersey Turnpike that left a veteran comedian dead and actor-comedian Tracy Morgan as well as others seriously injured.
This week, it was reported that Morgan and other victims have filed suit against Walmart, the employer of the trucker involved.
The accident occurred on the night of June 7 when Morgan and his colleagues were on their way home from a comedy show in a limo bus. Traffic had slowed on the turnpike but the driver of a Walmart semi-truck didn’t apply his breaks until it was too late.
The powerful semi careened into the back of the limo-bus, smashing it in like an accordion. After the accident, an investigation revealed that the trucker had not slept in more than 24 hours prior to the crash, and he may have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
A Walmart spokesman called the accident “a terrible tragedy” and apologized, but Morgan and the other victims decided that the company will need to do more than just apologize for its role in the accident.
On July 10, a personal injury lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey charging that Walmart “knew, or should have known” that the truck driver was sleep-deprived and therefore posed a hazard on the road. The lawsuit demands a trial by jury as well as actual, compensatory and punitive damages.
An investigation will be necessary to determine whether Walmart, indeed, knew or should have known that its employee was sleep-deprived but continued to drive anyway. If it turns out that fatigued driving is prevalent among Walmart drivers, the company could face hefty punitive damages.
Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in cases in which defendants have acted recklessly or intentionally, and they are meant to punish the defendants instead of merely compensating the plaintiffs for their losses.
Source: The Washington Post, “Tracy Morgan sues Wal-Mart following New Jersey Turnpike crash,” Sarah Larimer, July 15, 2014