NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Lawyers litigating the Deepwater Horizon explosion have identified hundreds of witnesses for a trial in February, but the star of the show won't perform.

Captain Curt Kuchta, master of the rig, has advised U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

Rig owner Transocean, the United States, and lawyers on a plaintiff steering committee had all expected to call Kuchta, according to witness lists they filed on May 9.

Transocean will plead at the trial that under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, its liability can't exceed the value of the vessel, about $26 million.

Plaintiffs claim the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 repealed the old law.

Because suits again stall other defendants hinge on the outcome of Transocean's case, Barbier decided to hold trial as quickly as possible.

The trial won't proceed quickly, if the parties call all the witnesses on their lists.

Transocean's roster of 304 included 82 of its own employees, 87 from oil company BP, and 18 from cement contractor Halliburton.

BP listed 71 witnesses from Halliburton, 110 others, plus anyone else who has been or will be deposed.

The United States listed 56 from BP, 32 from Halliburton, and 76 others.

The government also reserved seats for all who inspected or maintained the blowout prevention device, all who tried to activate or retrieve it, and all on board the Deepwater Horizon at the time of the explosion.

The plaintiff steering committee submitted 64 names, copying most of them from the government's roster.

Unlike the United States, the committee plans to call former BP chief executive Tony Hayward and current BP board member William Castell.

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