Walmart on Tuesday denied claims by lawyers for Tracy Morgan that the giant retailer is stalling a federal lawsuit over a fatal highway crash in New Jersey last summer.
In a court filing Monday, attorneys for the actor-comedian opposed a motion by Walmart driver Kevin Roper to intervene in the case. Roper isn't named as a defendant but is facing criminal charges in New Jersey. He is seeking to have the lawsuit delayed pending the resolution of his criminal case.
Morgan's attorneys accused Walmart of stalling to avoid the disclosure of its safety practices.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart t filed a letter with the court Tuesday that denied the accusation and said the company has taken no position on Roper's motion.
"Plaintiffs' accusation that Walmart is somehow behind Mr. Roper's motion in an attempt to delay discovery is simply false," the company's attorneys wrote.
Last month, the federal judge overseeing the case set the next in-person settlement conference for early March and scheduled deadlines extending to November of 2015 for both sides to file motions.
Morgan, a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member who also starred on TV's "30 Rock," was returning from a performance in Delaware in June when the Walmart truck driven by Roper slammed into the back of his limo van. Fellow comedian James McNair was killed, and Morgan and two others were seriously injured.
After a status conference with attorneys for both sides last month, Morgan's attorney, Benedict Morelli, said Morgan is fighting to recover from a traumatic brain injury suffered in the crash.
"He's fighting to get better, and if there's a chance for him to be back to the Tracy Morgan he once was, he's going to try to do that," Morelli said. "But we just don't know because of the severity of the injuries that he sustained and the fact that he had such a severe brain injury."
A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board said Roper was driving 65 mph in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the van. The speed limit on that stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike is 55 mph and was lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction.