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Legal Defenses put Tracy Morgan on the Offensive

Actor Tracy Morgan is making news today for his tweet related to his personal injury case.  Morgan tweeted the following:

‘Can’t Believe Wal-Mart is Blaming Me’

This, in turn, led to headlines such as the USA TODAY’s: “Walmart Blames Tracy Morgan For Not Wearing Seatbelt”

As many know, Morgan was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident a few months ago.  He was riding as a passenger in a limo bus when the limo was struck by a semi-truck belonging to the Wal-Mart Corporation.  Mr. Morgan hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit.  In response to his lawsuit, Wal-Mart (presumably through its insurance company) hired its own attorney.  Apparently, the Answer that Wal-Mart’s attorney filed enraged Mr. Morgan because it stated that Mr. Morgan’s injuries “were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs’ failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device.”

A lawsuit is commenced by filing a Complaint.  Whenever  a lawsuit is filed by a plaintiff (such as the one filed by Mr. Morgan here) the defendant(s) have to file an Answer to the Complaint.  In their Answer, the defendant(s) must admit or deny the allegations made in the plaintiff’s complaint.  Here, Wal-Mart denied that they are the sole cause of Mr. Morgan’s injury, because they believe that a reasonable party should be wearing a seatbelt.  Thus, Wal-Mart’s attorney is alleging that Mr. Morgan contributed (or failed to mitigate) the injuries that he suffered by not wearing a seat belt.

In the end, whether he failed to mitigate his injury is a question that the jury will decide.  And, in the end it is unimaginable that even if Tracy Morgan were wearing his seat belt that he would have escaped injury when his vehicle was struck  by Wal-Mart’s semi.  However, what is interesting here is all of the negative press that Wal-Mart and it’s legal team are getting, simply because its attorney filed an Answer (using templated language that it likely uses in all other lawsuits) stating that Mr. Morgan contributed in whole or part to his injury.    Maybe this will get defense attorneys to consult with their P.R. folks before filing templated answers in high-profile cases.


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