I saw an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times a couple of days ago that I thought what was worthy of mentioning on this blog. Many readers of this blog may be familiar with a fatal semi tractor-trailer accident in New Jersey several months ago involving TV star/comedian Tracy Morgan. The crash occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike and involved a semi tractor-trailer owned by Walmart and driven by a Walmart employee that smashed at a high-speed into the rear end of a van that Mr. Morgan and several other entertainers were traveling in. One man was killed. Mr. Morgan and the other passengers were seriously injured. Suit was filed against Walmart several weeks ago on behalf of Mr. Morgan and the others. The lawsuit included allegations that Walmart’s driver had violated federal traffic safety laws by driving without the proper amount of sleep or rest. (I have blogged about tired driving on a couple of occasions recently, as his is a growing problem: here and here.) Walmart has now responded to Mr. Morgan’s lawsuit by alleging that Mr. Morgan was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, and therefore is somehow responsible for causing his own injuries. Setting aside for a moment whether a rear seat van passenger is legally required to wear a seat belt, the fact of Walmart’s raising this defense, and this making it into the national news, struck me. After all, this is a defense that we see in almost every single automobile or truck accident case that we file a lawsuit on — whether it is applicable or not. (In fact it is such a boilerplate part of defense filings, that we often see it raised as a defense in slip and fall and other non-automobile cases.) It is part of the typical defense strategy in any kind of motor vehicle accident case to do everything possible to try to blame the accident victim for causing the crash or causing his injuries. It is almost unheard-of for a Defendant to ever admit that they were wrong and simply face the consequences of the full damages or injuries that they have caused. It occurs to me that this is the exact opposite of how we teach our children. As a parent, I am constantly trying to teach my kids about the value of being a responsible person and accepting responsibility when you have made a mistake or done something wrong. Apparently, insurance companies and corporate Defendants never received this kind of lesson… Anyway, I suspect that the seat belt offense will eventually be dropped in Tracy Morgan’s case, as there has been a pretty decent amount of outrage in the media over these kinds of tactics. Unfortunately, I don’t think our non-celebrity clients are going to get the same decent treatment anytime soon.. If you have any questions regarding...Read More »
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