Magistrate wants explanation from rig workers invoking the Fifth
NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Five Deepwater Horizon workers must explain how they can pursue personal injury claims against rig owner Transocean while they plead Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan ruled on Sept. 27.
She set an Oct. 11 deadline for them to show why she shouldn't grant a motion from Transocean to dismiss their claims.
Transocean also seeks an order relieving it of any obligation to continue making maintenance and cure payments to the five.
She set a hearing for Oct. 19.
Shushan assists District Judge Carl Barbier in managing national litigation over last year's explosion and oil spill.
Transocean moved to dismiss claims of the five workers on Aug. 30, alleging they hid behind the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions about their injuries.
Transocean identified the five as Andrea Fleytas, Allen Seraile, Stephen Bertone, James Ingram and Bill Johnson.
"Plaintiffs have frustrated Transocean's right and duty to investigate their maintenance and cure claims," Kerry Miller of New Orleans wrote.
He wrote that the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation of events surrounding the explosion.
"This investigation has unfortunately caused the specter of criminal charges to hang over the heads of certain individuals," he wrote.
He wrote that there was no basis to believe answers to questions regarding personal injuries might tend to incriminate the five.
He wrote that they misused the Fifth Amendment, "unless plaintiffs have engaged in criminal activities that are somehow related to their receipt of maintenance and cure."
He wrote that they asserted the Fifth Amendment scores or hundreds of times.
Four weeks passed and their lawyer, Kurt Arnold of Houston, didn't respond.
Shushan supplied motivation, requiring a response in two weeks.