Understanding The 2014 Tracy Morgan Truck Crash: Insights From a Truck Accident Law Firm

tracy morgan truck crash
tracy morgan truck crash

Image source: NY times

Tracy Morgan, a renowned American actor and stand-up comedian, is adored by fans worldwide for his memorable roles in ’30 Rock’ and ‘Saturday Night Live.’ In 2014, his life took an unexpected turn when a Walmart truck collided with the rear of his limo bus on a New Jersey highway. This catastrophic event left Morgan with multiple severe injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, various fractures, and internal bleeding. Even more tragically, one of the passengers did not survive the collision.

What Caused Tracy Morgan’s Truck Crash?

Several factors led to the accident on June 7, 2014, leading Morgan to suffer severe lifelong injuries and causing the death of beloved comedian James McNair. These factors include the following:


According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), truck driver fatigue was the main cause of the crash on June 7th, 2014, near Exit 8A in Cranbury, NJ. The accident happened in a construction work zone, where extra caution should have been exercised.

According to reports, Kevin Roper, the Walmart truck driver, had been awake for a staggering 28 hours leading up to the crash. He had also driven for 12 hours in his personal vehicle before even starting his job on the morning of June 6th. The NTSB laid the responsibility of this tragedy at the feet of Roper and his poor decision-making on that fateful day.


Evidence also indicated that Roper was not only sleep-deprived but also speeding at the time of the incident. The NTSB found that Roper was driving 65 mph, 20 mph over the posted 45 mph speed limit within the construction zone. Roper failed to recognize the need to reduce his speed until he noticed the brake lights of the vehicles in front of him, but by then, it was too late.

A Preventable Tragedy

The NTSB’s findings revealed a heart-wrenching possibility: had Roper been driving at the speed limit, braking at the same point could have prevented the crash altogether. This revelation underscores the importance of driver vigilance and adherence to traffic laws, especially when operating large vehicles such as trucks.

FMCSA Regulations Regarding Fatigued Driving

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a set of regulations specifically designed to protect truck drivers from fatigue – hours-of-service regulations – and ensure that they stay safe on the road. These hours-of-service regulations for property-carrying drivers include:

  • 14-Hour Limit: A trucker cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty following ten consecutive hours off duty. This prevents drivers from pushing their bodies beyond their natural limits.
  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: Within the 14-hour window, a driver may only drive for a maximum of 11 hours. By imposing this limit, the FMCSA ensures drivers have enough time to take breaks and remain alert on the road.
  • 30-Minute Driving Break: A driver must take a 30-minute break after eight cumulative hours of driving. This allows drivers to rest and recharge before continuing behind the wheel.
  • 60/70-Hour Limit: Depending on the circumstances, drivers may only work 60 hours in a span of seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days. By setting these boundaries, the FMCSA aims to reduce the risk of drowsy driving and improve road safety.
  • Sleeper Berth Provision: Drivers using a sleeper berth must spend at least 7 hours in the berth, followed by at least two non-driving hours before returning to driving. These hours must add up to 10. This ensures that drivers are well-rested and alert while on the road.

Who Was Responsible For The Crash?

Evidence indicated that the truck driver who collided with Morgan’s vehicle was speeding and driving while fatigued, two significant factors contributing to the accident. Based on the findings, it’s clear that truck driver Kevin Roper was at fault.

However, Walmart – the driver’s employer – was also being held accountable. This outcome is due to a legal principle called respondeat superior.

Why Was Walmart Liable and What is Respondeat Superior?

Respondeat superior, translated to mean “let the master answer,” is a legal doctrine that holds an employer accountable for the actions of its employees when those actions fall within the scope of their employment. To successfully argue this point, a plaintiff must demonstrate two key elements:

  1. A master-servant relationship existed between the employee (the truck driver) and the employer (Walmart).
  2. The wrongful act (the truck crash) occurred within the purview of the employee’s job.

Should both of these factors be proven, the employer can be held legally responsible for any damages caused.

Establishing a Master-Servant Relationship

In Tracy Morgan’s case, it was evident that the truck driver was employed by Walmart at the time of the accident. As an employee, the driver was subject to Walmart’s authority and control, fulfilling the first requirement of respondeat superior.

Determining the Scope of Employment

The second element considers whether the truck driver’s wrongful act (the collision) occurred while performing his job duties. In this instance, the driver’s fatigue resulted from a long shift, and he was operating a Walmart-owned vehicle. Consequently, the accident could be linked to his employment, satisfying the second element.

The plaintiffs also alleged that Walmart officials knew about Roper’s irregular schedule and long hours on the road but failed to ensure that FMCSA regulations were followed. The lawsuit additionally claimed that Walmart had a “custom and practice” of allowing their truckers to drive for unreasonable periods of time, thereby placing their drivers and others at risk.

WalMart’s Arguments Against Liability

After the accident, Walmart sought to deflect blame by claiming that the passengers in Morgan’s limousine were partially or wholly injured due to their negligence in not wearing seatbelts. The retail giant insisted that Morgan and his party exhibited “unreasonable conduct” by failing to buckle up, which should lead them to be held responsible for their own injuries.

Ultimately, WalMart Settled With The Victims

Despite their initial attempts to avoid liability, Walmart ultimately opted to settle the case before it went to trial. Through the settlement they accepted responsibility for causing the accident and settled with the plaintiffs, including Morgan and the family of the deceased passenger.

Walmart’s decision to settle is not uncommon in personal injury claims—corporations often choose to go this route to avoid the negative publicity that a trial can generate, as well as the potentially higher financial consequences of a jury award.

Role of a Truck Accident Law Lawyer in Investigating Crashes

Truck accident lawyers are essential in investigating the circumstances surrounding truck accidents like the 2014 Tracy Morgan crash and establishing the cause and causes of the crash. These professionals have the expertise and resources to conduct thorough investigations to ensure those involved receive the compensation they’re entitled to. Here’s exactly how a lawyer can help:

Gather Evidence and Establish Liability

One of the first actions a truck accident attorney will take is to gather evidence to build a strong case against the at-fault party. This can include obtaining crash scene photos, video footage, GPS data from the truck, and driver log books, among other evidence.

In addition, in serious truck crash cases, experts such as an accident reconstructionist will be retained to go to the scene, take measurements, photographs, videos both on the ground and from the air with the use of drones and other resources, and take further steps to determine the sequence of events leading up to the crash.

These resources help paint a clear picture of what happened, helping to establish liability and identify the negligent actions that caused or contributed to the crash including violations of both state and federal regulations as well as industry standards.

The evidence-gathering process can be quite complicated, as multiple parties are often involved in a truck accident case, including the driver, the trucking company, the tractor truck owner, the owner of the trailer, the shipper, the shipping brokers and the vehicle manufacturer. A skilled attorney will know how to deal with each party, ensuring that all relevant information is obtained and used to build a solid case.

Negotiations and Settlements

Once all the necessary evidence is gathered, a lawsuit has been filed, and depositions have been taken, a truck accident lawyer’s role shifts towards negotiating a fair settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company(ies). This process can be arduous, but an experienced attorney will understand how to effectively present a client’s case while ensuring the best possible outcome.

When it makes sense for the client and the case, settlements provide a quicker route to compensation. However, your truck accident attorney should begin preparing the case for trial from day one to make it clear to the at-fault party that the case will be tried to a jury if a fair settlement cannot be reached.

Trial Preparation and Litigation

When a lawsuit is filed, additional evidence can be obtained including driver qualification files, truck maintenance records, inspection reports, driving route records, electronic data downloads from the tractor truck, and more. Depositions can then be taken of the truck driver, safety director, corporate representatives of the defendants, eyewitnesses, investigating police officers, medical providers, and others whose testimony is required to discover what happened and why, and prepare the case for trial.

With thorough preparation and the support of compelling evidence, a truck accident trial attorney will persuasively present the case to a jury. The ultimate objective is to win the case and obtain the maximum possible compensation, including money damages for medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, physical impairment, and more.

In cases involving severe injuries or fatalities and when the liability facts of the case are egregious, truck accident lawyers may also seek punitive damages. These additional awards are meant to punish the at-fault party for their egregious conduct and deter future negligent behavior.

The role of a truck accident law lawyer is indispensable for those involved in truck accidents.

Have You Been Involved in a Similar Accident? We Can Help

The truck accident involving Tracy Morgan in 2014 profoundly affected many around the world, standing as a devastating reminder of the severe repercussions that can result from such incidents.

Having a legal advocate by your side in situations like these is incredibly important. Personal injury attorneys, particularly those who focus their practice on representing people in truck accident cases, can offer critical advice, assistance, and representation.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact The Callahan Law Firm to schedule a free consultation. You can call us, submit an online request, or even visit our offices in Houston or Pasadena, Texas.


What Happened With Tracy Morgan and Walmart?

In June 2014, the American comedian and actor Tracy Morgan was involved in a severe motor vehicle accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. Evidence indicated the crash was caused by a Walmart truck driver, Kevin Roper, who failed to notice traffic slowing down and collided with the vehicle carrying Tracy Morgan and others.

How Much Did Walmart Pay Tracy?

In May 2015, it was reported that Walmart reached a settlement agreement with Tracy Morgan and the other passengers injured in the accident. While the specific amount was not publicly disclosed, it was reported to be a substantial sum, with some estimates ranging from $90 to $100 million.

Why Was Tracy Morgan in a Coma?

As a result of the accident, Tracy Morgan suffered severe injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for approximately two weeks following the accident. The severity of his injuries required an extensive recovery and rehabilitation process.

What Happened to Kevin Roper?

Kevin Roper was the Walmart truck driver involved in the accident with Tracy Morgan. It has been reported that Roper faced criminal charges in connection with the accident.

However, in November 2016, it has been reported that Roper accepted a plea deal, entering a pre-trial intervention program requiring him to be placed on probation and complete up to 300 hours of community service. He was also required to maintain employment, remain arrest-free, and received a driver’s license suspension. Once these requirements were completed, Kevin Roper’s record would be wiped clean.