By David Porter
TRENTON, N.J. — Tracy Morgan is fighting to recover from a severe brain injury suffered in a highway crash more than five months ago, and it’s uncertain if he will be “the Tracy Morgan he once was,” his lawyer said Tuesday.
Benedict Morelli said the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star suffered a traumatic brain injury in the June 7 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, in addition to a broken leg, nose and ribs.
“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.”
Lawyers were in court in New Jersey for a scheduling conference in Morgan’s lawsuit against Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., whose truck was involved in the crash. Morgan wasn’t at Tuesday’s proceeding, during which lawyers met with the judge to settle on a schedule.
A Wal-Mart truck slammed into a limo van that was carrying Morgan and several friends on their way back from a show in Delaware. One person was killed, and three others were injured, two seriously. Morgan spent several weeks in a hospital and in rehab.
Morelli didn’t discuss specific aspects of Morgan’s condition but said he hasn’t fully recovered.
“When you have a traumatic brain injury it takes a very long time to find out how you’re going to do and how much you’re going to recover,” Morelli said. “You just don’t know. So that’s where he is. He’s still fighting and trying to live his life at the same time and trying to get better, and he’s just not better. We’re hoping and praying to get him back to where he was. But the jury’s out.”
A comedy series Morgan was to have begun filming in August for FX Network was put on hold after the accident.
Morgan sued for punitive and compensatory damages. In a response to the lawsuit filed in late September, Wal-Mart contended the victims’ injuries were partly due to the fact that they weren’t wearing seatbelts.
Attorneys representing Wal-Mart didn’t comment after Tuesday’s proceeding.
Georgia truck driver Kevin Roper, who is not named in Morgan’s lawsuit, was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto in state court. Last Friday, he filed to have Morgan’s lawsuit delayed while that case proceeds. That matter is scheduled to be ruled on next month.
A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board released in June said Roper was driving 65 mph in the minute before he slammed into the back of the van. The speed limit on that stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike is 55 mph but was lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction.