Plaintiffs committee wants past testimony admitted in BP suits

Steve Korris Oct. 27, 2011, 10:26am


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Plaintiffs attorneys preparing for trial over liability for the Deepwater Horizon explosion seek to admit past testimony of witnesses who now refuse to testify because they might incriminate themselves.

On Oct. 17, leaders of a plaintiff committee urged U. S. District Judge Carl Barbier to allow witness statements from a report of a U.S. Coast Guard investigation board.

Attorneys James Roy of Domengeaux Wright Roy & Edwards in Lafayette and Stephen Herman of Herman, Herman Katz & Cotlar in New Orleans asked Barbier to grant an exception to the rule against hearsay.

"Because a witness who invokes the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination is deemed unavailable under the federal rules of evidence, previous testimony before the board is admissible at trial," they wrote.

They conceded that Barbier can't admit the full report as evidence, but they asked him to admit it for impeachment purposes. They also asked him to admit "photographs and other raw materials" from it.

Finally, they asked him to admit a report from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Enforcement and Regulation.

The agencies intentionally separated their reports into separate volumes and released the volumes on separate dates, they wrote, and each agency report was prepared according to the respective agency's internal processes.

"Volume I is clearly the Coast Guard's marine casualty investigation report and is inadmissible," they wrote."Volume II is clearly BOEMRE's report and is admissible because it is not a marine casualty report and no other statute precludes its admission," the attorneys wrote.

Lawyers for many witnesses have notified Barbier that clients won't testify.

Rig owner Transocean moved to dismiss injury suits of five workers in August, alleging they pleaded the Fifth to avoid answering questions about their injuries.

Transocean identified the five as Andrea Fleytas, Allen Seraile, Stephen Bertone, James Ingram and Bill Johnson.

Kurt Arnold of Houston represents all five.

As of Oct. 21, U. S. Magistrate Sally Shushan had not decided the motion.

Shushan assists Barbier in presiding over hundreds of Deepwater Horizon damage suits by appointment of the U. S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation.

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