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Children of comedian killed in Tracy Morgan crash awarded $10 million

BY JIM FITZGERALD | ASSOCIATED PRESS

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The children of comedian James McNair, who was killed in the New Jersey Turnpike crash that injured Tracy Morgan, are getting a $10 million settlement from Wal-Mart, court papers show.

The documents also show that the children, Jamel McNair, 26, and Denita McNair, 19, are putting part of the payment toward annuities that will pay them ever-increasing monthly amounts, starting at $3,000, for the rest of their lives.

Jamel, right, and Danita McNair, the children of James McNair has settled a wrongful death claim with Wal-Mart, an attorney representing the family said today. |AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Jamel, right, and Danita McNair, the children of James McNair, are interviewed in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. The family of McNair, a comedian killed in the crash that seriously injured Tracy Morgan last summer, has settled a wrongful death claim with Wal-Mart, an attorney representing the family said today. |AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The $10 million figure was disclosed in documents filed in Surrogate’s Court in New York’s Westchester County, where James McNair lived until the June 7 accident, when a Wal-Mart truck hit a limo van that was carrying him, Morgan and others home from a show in Delaware.

Morgan, a former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star, suffered broken bones and what his lawyer, Benedict Morelli, said was a traumatic brain injury. Morelli said Friday that Morgan was “very pleased” that McNair’s children were well-compensated and will be able to “lead a better life.” McNair was a longtime friend and mentor to Morgan.

Morelli added that Morgan is not fully recovered but is “working very hard to get better, physically, emotionally and mentally.” Morgan had hoped to attend the 40th anniversary show of “Saturday Night Live” last month, Morelli said, but was not well enough. Morgan still hasn’t seen a segment in which his “30 Rock” co-stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin paid tribute to him during the show, Morelli said.

“I think it’s going to take him a while before he’s emotionally and mentally ready to watch that,” the attorney said. “He knows about it. He said to me, ‘I couldn’t watch it, but one day I will.'”

Morgan still hasn’t watched the tribute performed for him on last month’s “Saturday Night Live” 40th anniversary show. An attorney for Morgan tells The Associated Press on Friday that the former “SNL” star isn’t emotionally ready yet to watch the segment.

Morgan’s “30 Rock” co-stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin did a short piece sending him their support. Attorney Benedict Morelli says Morgan was “incredibly moved” by the gesture but hasn’t watched the segment.

This 2010 photo shows comedian James McNair. | AP Photo/The Journal News, Brian Howard

This 2010 photo shows comedian James McNair. | AP Photo/The Journal News, Brian Howard

Morgan and two others injured in the crash also have sued Wal-Mart. The truck driver, Kevin Roper, has been charged with death by auto and other offenses in New Jersey state court but has not yet been indicted, said a spokesman for the Middlesex County, New Jersey, prosecutor’s office.

A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board said Roper was driving 65 mph in the minute before he slammed into Morgan’s van. The speed limit on that stretch of the highway is 55 mph but had been lowered to 45 mph that night because of construction, according to the report.

The McNair family lawyer, Daryl Zaslow, announced in January that Wal-Mart had settled with the children, but the amount was said to be confidential. However, he mentioned the $10 million figure in court papers filed last month supporting his request, backed by the McNair children, for nearly $3 million in legal fees. The $10 million figure was first reported by dnainfo.com.

Zaslow did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company could not discuss the terms, “but we are glad to have reached an agreement. … We deeply regret the loss of Mr. McNair and we worked closely with his family to insure their wellbeing.”

Associated Press