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NEW YORK (AP) — The family of a comedian killed in the New Jersey Turnpike crash that seriously injured Tracy Morgan last summer has settled a wrongful death claim with Wal-Mart, an attorney representing the family said.
The out-of-court settlement between the company and the estate of James McNair is the first stemming from the June 7 crash in which a Wal-Mart truck slammed into a limo van carrying Morgan and the others home from a show in Delaware.
Morgan, a former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, according to his lawyer, and his lawsuit against Wal-Mart is proceeding in federal court. Criminal charges against truck driver Kevin Roper are pending in state court.
McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York, was a friend and mentor to Morgan. He died at the scene.
Attorney Daryl Zaslow told The Associated Press that the terms of the settlement decree that the amount is to be kept confidential, but he said the family was pleased with the outcome.
Wal-Mart “accepted their responsibility by making this family more than whole,” he said. “They caused extensive damage to this family and more than stepped up to the plate and took care of this family. Ultimately they did the right thing by the McNairs.”
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the company and the family worked closely to reach an agreement and that Wal-Mart was working toward settlements with others injured in the accident.
“We know there is nothing we can do to change what happened to Mr. McNair,” Buchanan said. “We will continue to work to conclude all of the remaining issues as a result of the accident and we’re committed to doing what’s right.”
Zaslow said McNair’s children, 19-year-old Denita and 26-year-old Jamel, purposely stayed out of the spotlight in the months after their father’s death to avoid the media frenzy surrounding the case.
“No amount of money can replace what they’ve lost, but what they’ve got will take care of them and allow them to move forward, and their father would be happy for that,” Zaslow said.
Under terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart admitted no liability in the crash, Zaslow said, adding that the settlement was reached before the formal filing of a lawsuit.
Roper, the driver, has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. According to the criminal complaint, Roper was operating the truck without having slept for more than 24 hours.
A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board estimated that Roper was driving 65 mph in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the limo van. The speed limit on that stretch of the turnpike is 55 mph and was lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction.
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