NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled against a Wal-Mart driver involved in a crash that killed a comic and severely injured actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and several others.
Driver Kevin Roper had filed a motion to delay Morgan's lawsuit against Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart stemming from the June 7 crash in New Jersey.
Roper faces several criminal charges in state court, including death by auto, but he hasn't been indicted yet. He's not a defendant in Morgan's federal lawsuit but wanted to intervene in that suit and delay it from moving forward until his criminal case could be resolved.
Roper, of Jonesboro, Georgia, said his right to a fair trial would be hampered and that he would, in effect, be on trial in the civil case even though he wasn't a defendant. He said prosecutors in the criminal case would benefit from information that was divulged.
On Tuesday, a judge ruled against Roper and allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp wrote that a delay would unfairly affect the parties in Morgan's suit and that Roper didn't cite relevant case law to back up his claims or give specific examples of how he would be adversely affected. He did give Roper the option to file another motion if information or materials are requested from him for the lawsuit while his criminal case is unresolved.
Comedian James McNair was killed in the crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, while Morgan and two others were seriously injured. Wal-Mart reached a monetary settlement with McNair's two children two weeks ago; the amount hasn't been disclosed.
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.