DAVID PORTER, Associated Press
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Wal-Mart on Tuesday denied claims by lawyers for actor-comedian Tracy Morgan that the giant retailer is stalling a federal lawsuit over a fatal highway crash in New Jersey last summer.
In a court filing Monday, attorneys for Morgan opposed a motion by Wal-Mart driver Kevin Roper to intervene in the case. Roper isn’t named as a defendant but is facing criminal charges in New Jersey. He is seeking to have the lawsuit delayed pending the resolution of his criminal case.
Morgan’s attorneys accused Wal-Mart of stalling to avoid the disclosure of its safety practices.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart filed a letter with the court Tuesday that denied the accusation and said the company has taken no position on Roper’s motion.
“Plaintiffs’ accusation that Wal-Mart is somehow behind Mr. Roper’s motion in an attempt to delay discovery is simply false,” the company’s attorneys wrote.
Last month, the federal judge overseeing the case set the next in-person settlement conference for early March and scheduled deadlines extending to November of 2015 for both sides to file motions.
Morgan, a former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star, was returning from a performance in Delaware in June when the Wal-Mart truck driven by Roper slammed into the back of his limo van. Fellow comedian James McNair was killed, and Morgan and two others were seriously injured.
After a status conference with attorneys for both sides last month, Morgan’s attorney, Benedict Morelli, 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 in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the van. The speed limit on that stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike is 55 mph and was lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction.
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