Morgan’s Walmart suit: Was driver awake 24 hours plus?

Instagram image of vehicles following Tracy Morgan / Walmart Crash
Instagram image of vehicles following Tracy Morgan / Walmart Crash

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2014 — Walmart is being sued following a June 7 accident that left 62-year-old comedian James McNair (aka Jimmy Mack) dead and injured comedians Tracy Morgan, Ardley Fuqua and Jeffrey Millea, Morgan’s assistant.

The suit is being filed on behalf of Morgan, Fuqua, Millea, and Millea’s wife, Krista, who was not in the vehicle. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and statutory damages, punitive damages and legal fees

The suit claims that:

As a direct and proximate result of said collision, Mr. Morgan was caused to sustain severe painful bodily injuries, including but not limited to multiple fractures which required multiple surgeries, extensive medical treatment and will require significant physical rehabilitation.

Filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, the suit claims Walmart was responsible for the crash, alleging that the company should have been “aware that driver Kevin Roper, 35, had been awake for more than 24 consecutive hours”

Walmart has been sued for unfair work-hour practices in the past.

READ ALSO: Wal-Mart’s bad business practices lead to litigation

Roper has several criminal charges against him, including assault and vehicular homicide. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The complaint states that that Roper had driven more than 700 miles from his home in Jonesboro, Ga., to a Walmart distribution center in Smyrna, Del., before beginning his shift and that exhaustion was a contributing factor to the accident that crashed his 18-wheeler, which can legally weigh as much as 80,000 lbs, into Morgan’s limousine van vehicle.

It further alleges that Roper was dangerously close to the company limit of 14 hours on the clock, which may become an interesting element of this case going forward.

The work day is extending far into the “recreation” period of the “8 hours work–8 hours life–8 hours sleep” formula as more and more people take their working day into the car, home, and restaurant via electronic devices, or, as may be the case in this accident, the need to maximize on employment opportunities during a difficult job market.

During the 1870s, activists and workers took up the fight for the eight-hour workday which led to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Before the act, the standard 8-hour work-day was first widely instituted by car manufacturer Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company in 1914. They cut the work day from 14 hours, increased productivity, and were able to double workers’ pay. Ford saw their profit margin double within two years and the eight hour work day became standard.

In Das Kapital, Karl Marx, who felt working hours to be of vital importance to the workers health, wrote:

By extending the working day, therefore, capitalist production … not only produces a deterioration of human labour power by robbing it of its normal moral and physical conditions of development and activity, but also produces the premature exhaustion and death of this labour power itself.

Which may lead to the argument that Walmart, with its extended 14-hour work shifts was negligent. The US Department of Labor Fact Sheet #22 states:

Travel That is All in a Day’s Work: Time spent by an employee in travel as part of their principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.

Federal Transportation Safety Investigators report that Roper was driving 65 mph on a segment of the New Jersey turnpike where speeds were lowered to 45 mph due to of construction.

Federal rules permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel; Roper had been on the job about 13 1/2 hours at the time of the crash, the report concluded.

Morgan spent more than a month in the hospital and rehabilitation recovering from broken legs, ribs and other injuries when the limo van they were riding in was struck from behind by Roper.

He will continue to receive at home care and rehabilitation says his spokesperson Lewis Kay.

The night of the accident, the group was returning from Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware, following a performance by Morgan, when the crash occurred.

No chargers were filed against the driver of the van.

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  • Jay Gerding

    How in the world was the dispatcher to know that the driver had driven 700 miles to get to work, unless the driver told him? Like most employees, when drivers are on their own time, they can pretty much do what they want, without reporting it to their boss. The only person at fault here is the driver, who should have know better than to get in that truck without a proper rest, and also because he was grossly exceeding the speed limit at the time.

    • jkubin

      That will be for the lawyers to decide. It will just be interesting to see how it progresses

  • lerj77

    These people who write these articles need to research what they are writing about before they make false statements. We have 14 hrs to drive up to a maximum of 11 hrs, not work for up to 14 hrs. I can work however many hrs I want after I shutdown, but I cannot drive again unless I show a 10 hr consecutive break. Get the wording correct before u write an article if not then shut the hell up about what you don’t understand

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