What are the dangers of commenting on pending personal injury litigation prior to the conclusion?
As you may recall, comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in a catastrophic motor vehicle accident following a June, 2014 show in a Dover, Delaware casino. The accident, which left Morgan permanently injured and killed a fellow comedian riding in the tour bus, involved a commercial freightliner hauling goods for the Wal-Mart corporation. The accident immediately sparked an inquiry into whether the driver was following proper federal laws regarding mandatory rest breaks when driving across the U.S.
At the 2015 Primetime Emmy awards, Morgan made his valiant return to the stage – given a heartfelt standing ovation by his fans and supporters. Morgan’s comments, however, contained several references to the tragic night of the accident – and seemingly concluded that the other driver was unequivocally to blame for the resulting injuries and fatality.
The truck driver, who is awaiting a possible criminal indictment concerning his actions that night, has stated time and time again that it will be impossible for him to experience a fair trial given the celebrity status of the victim. Moreover, the defendant’s counsel did not take too kindly to the references made at the awards show, reiterating that the driver continues to maintain his innocence in the matter.
Commenting on ongoing litigation can be a double-edged sword. While it is undoubtedly important to advance one’s position on the case, making statements to the media almost always results in some degree of contortion of the truth– which is usually hard to erase in the minds of potential jurors.