Settlements: Tracy Morgan v Walmart

Tracy Morgan has settled his big buck lawsuit against Walmart, court papers show.

Source: Tracy Morgan, Walmart settle lawsuit over turnpike crash – NY Daily News

It’s lawsuit news, of course, but it’s not why I’m posting this.

Within the article are several lessons about how settlements are calculated in personal injury cases.

First, this case settled relatively quickly. Two reasons I can think of: Tracy Morgan is a major celebrity and Walmart is a major corporation. It would not do Walmart’s already multifariously iffy reputation any good if they continued to argue as they did in their initial answer to the complaint, (as described in the Daily News): Walmart “coldly stated their [the plaintiffs] injuries, ‘if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt device’ — boilerplate language that was blasted at the time by Morgan’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli.”

(It was boilerplate, by the way, and if you have been injured and file a lawsuit, you might become awfully upset when you read an answer that, as in this one, tries to blame you for the accident that injured you. Try not to get too upset; this language emerges almost untouched by legal brains from a law firm’s computer. Which is sort of what “boilerplate” means.)

That made Walmart look bad. Walmart already looks bad to a lot of us, for a lot of reasons. Tracy Morgan is apparently an appreciated and loved comic actor. Blaming him for his injuries wouldn’t work out well for Walmart in an extended litigation. I can’t see them selling that argument to a jury, with an obviously injured Morgan sitting at the plaintiff’s table, possibly in a wheelchair.

Moreover, as I previously commented about the “no seatbelt defense”, it wasn’t going to work anyway. We can all assume that Walmart’s legal team wrote that quick boilerplate answer and then had a sitdown with Walmart’s CEO and board and said, “We can’t really defend this so it’s our advice we negotiate a quick settlement that will satisfy the plaintiffs.”

Of course, “The terms of the deal are confidential, and Morgan and Walmart want to keep it that way.”

Second:

The superstore — which has a market value of $241 billion — settled wrongful death claims with the children of the Morgan pal who was killed in the crash, James (uncle Jimmy Mack) McNair, for $10 million, court records show.

A lawyer who was not involved in the case, Howard Hershenhorn, said the new deal is likely “multiples of that — many, many multiples of that.”

He noted that Morgan, Fuqua and Millea have serious injuries they’ll likely deal with the rest of their lives, and that Morgan — who hasn’t worked since the accident — has a strong claim that his injuries have impacted his substantial earning power. [My emphasis]

And that is an excellent, clear analysis of how personal injury damages are considered and how settlements are calculated.

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