Tracy Morgan has won the latest round in his effort to sue Wal-Mart and others over a fatal crash in New Jersey.
A federal judge on Dec. 12 refused to delay the lawsuit. The ruling came on a motion by Kevin Roper, the driver of the Wal-Mart truck authorities say slammed into the back of Morgan’s limo van on the New Jersey Turnpike in June.
Roper, of Georgia, isn’t named as a defendant but is facing criminal charges. He wanted the suit delayed until his criminal case was resolved.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, though, said Roper failed to show he requires “emergent relief.”
Roper’s attorney, David Glassman, said the civil case can taint his client’s criminal case if it’s allowed to proceed first. He said Roper will, in effect, be on trial in the civil case since he was driving the truck.
Glassman said there’s still a motion pending that seeks to allow Roper to enter the lawsuit. Allowing him to join it would give him a chance to defend himself, Glassman said.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs had argued that Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart was using Roper’s motion to stall the suit because it wanted to avoid disclosing safety practices.
A call to Wal-Mart seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Wal-Mart has previously denied claims that it was trying to stall the suit brought by the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star, who was returning from a performance in Delaware when the accident occurred.
Fellow comedian James McNair was killed in the crash, while Morgan and two others were seriously injured.
Morgan’s attorney, Benedict Morelli, has said Morgan is fighting to recover from a traumatic brain injury suffered in the crash and is uncertain if he will be “the Tracy Morgan he once was.”
A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board said Roper was driving 65 mph (105 kph) in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the van. The speed limit on that stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike is 55 mph (88 kph) and was lowered to 45 mph (72 kph) that night because of construction.
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