Why Wal-Mart “no seat belt” defense in Tracy Morgan accident won’t work

It made huge headlines in the Daily News: Tracy Morgan: ‘I can’t believe Wal-Mart is blaming me for an accident that they caused’ – NY Daily News.

Wal-Mart, after presumably a bit of investigation, will be defending Tracy Morgan’s lawsuit against them by claiming he wasn’t wearing a seat belt and, therefore, it was his fault that he’s been so badly injured and his friend and colleague was killed in the dreadful New Jersey highway crash.

Here’s why I believe this defense won’t work.

Many years ago, I worked on a horrific personal injury case caused by a motor vehicle accident. Our client was driving her car with her children. (She had four; I don’t remember whether all of them were in the car but at least three of them were.) As I remember it, none of them was wearing a seat belt. She came to a crossroads, had the green light and drove into the intersection. Her car was hit sidelong by an ambulance running through the crossroads’ red light.

The ambulance driver was a trainee on a trainee’s run, and had been instructed by an ambulance company employee to act as if she were heading to an emergency, so she ran the red light.

Three of our client’s children were killed and she was severely injured.

The ambulance company presented the same defense as Wal-Mart is apparently counting on: our client’s failure to put her children in seat belts made her, not the ambulance company, negligent.

It didn’t work. Not only did the ambulance driver get a prison sentence, she (the driver was a woman) made a heartfelt, tearful public apology to our client, and the ambulance company settled with our client for a great deal of money.

It was an awful case to work on because there would be no “win” in it. Our client was damaged for the rest of her life. For those reasons, I hated that case, and decided I never wanted to work in personal injury again.

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