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Wal-Mart Driver in Tracy Morgan Crash Loses Bid to Delay Lawsuit

A federal judge rules against Kevin Roper’s request stemming from the fatal June 7 crash that severely injured the comedian and left a fellow comic dead

A federal judge has ruled against Wal-Mart driver Kevin Roper’s motion to delay the lawsuit stemming from the crash that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed fellow comic James McNair on the New Jersey Turnpike last June.

Roper faces criminal charges in state court, and while he is not a defendant in Morgan’s federal lawsuit, he wanted it delayed until his criminal case could be resolved, claiming his right to a fair trial could be affected.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp wrote that a delay would unfairly affect the parties in Morgan’s suit and that Roper didn’t cite relevant case law to back up his claims, according to legal documents obtained by TheWrap.

“Roper contends that the media attention this case has attracted is tainting the pool of potential jurors in his criminal suit,” Shipp wrote. “These concerns, however, are more appropriately addressed by the court overseeing his criminal action, which has various trial management techniques [that it can employ] to assure that the defendant’s right to an impartial jury is not compromised,” such as a change in venue.

“Because the Court has concluded that Roper has failed to establish that he should be allowed to intervene as of right, and also that it is inappropriate to permit Roper to intervene as a matter of the Court’s discretion, the undersigned need not consider Roper’s request for a stay,” he concluded.

As TheWrap previously reported, the motion to intervene contended that evidence brought to light in the civil case would be harmful to the driver, as although he is not named as a defendant in Morgan’s suit, he is mentioned in it.

“30 Rock” star Morgan, who was in a coma for several days following the accident, filed suit against Wal-Mart in July, claiming that the company was “careless and negligent in the ownership and operation of its motor vehicle.”

The suit went on to claim that Wal-Mart “knew or should have known” that Roper was awake “for more than 24 consecutive hours” prior to the accident and that the company had a “custom and practice of recklessly and intentionally allowing its drivers to drive for prolonged and unreasonable periods of time.”

Morgan “sustained severe painful bodily injuries,” stated the court documents, which detailed similar injuries for co-plaintiffs Ardley Fuqua Jr. and Jeffrey Millea. Millea’s wife, Krista Millea, is also listed as a co-plaintiff, alleging “loss of society and consortium,” due to the injuries her husband sustained.

Roper has pleaded not guilty to one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto stemming from the accident and is currently out on bail.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.