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Morgan vs. Walmart is no laughing matter


Was he or wasn’t he? Unfortunately for Walmart, a legitimate question about whether comedian Tracy Morgan and his entourage were wearing seatbelts the night their limousine was rear-ended by a Walmart truck has made a bad situation worse for the retailer.

Morgan was badly injured and another passenger died in an accident involving multiple vehicles in New Jersey. The initial accident and resulting investigation into it led to negative publicity when it was discovered the driver was speeding in a construction zone. Making matters worse, a lawsuit alleges the driver had been awake for 24 hours because he had commuted 700 miles from his home in Georgia to Delaware before his shift began.

The latest round of negative publicity arose after Walmart questioned in a court filing whether those injured in the accident were partly responsible for their injuries because they failed to properly wear an appropriate seatbelt restraint device. Walmart said the filing was part of the ordinary course of legal proceedings that included facts and defenses that may impact the case moving forward. Walmart was roundly criticized as attempting to blame the victim and minimize its losses. No one took the position that questioning whether the occupants of the limousine were wearing seat belts is a fair question even though it is well documented that the use of seatbelts minimizes the severity of injuries and the potential for death.

Walmart said it has taken steps to encourage settlement discussions, but lawyers for the plaintiffs may be reluctant to do so as they are surely eyeing a large payday regardless of whether seatbelts were worn. The big check that Walmart will eventually write to Morgan and others affected by the accident may not be the worst part depending how Morgan integrates the situation into his comedic material.

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