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Wal-Mart sued in wake of Tracy Morgan truck accident

It has been about six weeks since the truck accident that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan. For most of that time, the New York native has been in a rehabilitation facility struggling with the aftermath of the crash.

The news story about the truck accident has received significant media attention, in part, because Morgan is a celebrity. However, the crash has also become an example used by safety advocates to demonstrate why the trucking industry needs to keep current hours-of-service regulations in place and to have those regulations strictly enforced.

Now that Morgan’s health has seemingly stabilized, he is ready to take legal action. Recently, attorneys representing Morgan filed a personal injury lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the company that owned the semi-truck and hired the driver. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the two other surviving passengers in the limo with Morgan that night. A fourth passenger died in the crash.

Under federal rules, truckers can be on the road in a work capacity up to 14 hours in a day. Although the driver of the big rig involved in the crash had technically been working for 13.5 hours at the time, he had allegedly been awake for 24 hours prior to the crash. The truck driver had also apparently “commuted” from his home in Georgia to work in Delaware, which is a drive of about 700 miles. This may have extended his daily driving by an additional 10 hours or so.

Companies are responsible for the drivers they hire to move merchandise. They must first hire drivers with a clean safety record and experience behind the wheel of a semi. Then, these drivers must be monitored closely in order to make sure that they are following safety protocols. Technological innovations over the last 10-15 years have made it easier than ever to engage in compliance monitoring.

Wal-Mart may not have been directly responsible for the truck driver’s bad choices leading up to the crash, but it is responsible for hiring and failing to monitor someone who would make such a reckless decision.

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

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