Earlier this summer, actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was severely injured when his limousine bus was struck by a Wal-Mart truck. Morgan has begun the long road to recovery and has filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart along with several others who were injured in the crash, including his friend James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, who was killed. 

Through the suit, the group claims that Wal-Mart was reckless  and negligent in allowing a driver who had not slept in 24 hours to be behind the wheel of the 18-wheeler that was responsible for the crash. However, Wal-Mart essentially claims that the injured parties were at fault for their maladies since they were not wearing their seat  belts. It claims that the failure to wear “an appropriate, available seat belt restraint device” led to the injuries, and that if they had won their seat belts, their injuries could have been “diminished or minimized.”

Wal-Mart’s assertions suggest that under a comparative negligence standard, a recovery realized by the plaintiffs, if any, would be reduced by the amount of their own negligence. If, for example, a jury awarded the plaintiffs $2 million collectively, but also found that they were 30 percent responsible for their injuries, the award could be reduced by $600,000 (2,000,000 x .30).

It remains to be seen whether the matter will reach trial, especially given that an NTSB investigation into the crash is ongoing. The results of the investigation could lead to a prima facie (first glance) finding that Wal-Mart was at completely at fault.