Las Vegas Sun

April 23, 2014

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Looking in on: Justice:

Desai staffer stonewalls plaintiffs’ attorneys

Deposition may hint at what’s ahead in civil cases over series of Las Vegas hepatitis infections

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Steve Marcus

Leong Teoh, 46, and his fiancee Ni Pham, 34, right, both of Mesquite, watch as Teoh’s bother and fiancee, of Singapore, apply for a marriage license at the Clark

The massive civil litigation over the hepatitis outbreak linked to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada is heating up.

Tanya Rushing, the clinic’s office manager, asserted her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination Tuesday during an abbreviated

75-minute deposition.

Rushing, who is among the clinic employees who could face criminal charges stemming from the outbreak, declined to answer more than 200 questions when grilled by plaintiffs’ attorneys. More than two dozen lawyers packed the board room during the deposition at the office of Will Kemp.

Rushing answered only one question — acknowledging that all of her actions were within the scope of her duties at the endoscopy clinic.

Her lack of cooperation could be a harbinger of things to come, as other key endoscopy officials, including lead physician Dipak Desai, face off with the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

In May attorneys for Desai, who has since had a stroke, filed court papers indicating he would take the Fifth if forced to give a deposition in the middle of the criminal investigation.

Some progress was made in the civil case Wednesday, when Chief District Judge Kathy Hardcastle set the first trial dates.

First out of the box is the lawsuit filed by Ed Bernstein, the personal injury lawyer for Michael Washington, one of the eight patients authorities believe were infected with the deadly hepatitis C virus at the clinic. Washington’s case is to be tried Oct. 19, 2009, in the courtroom of District Judge David Wall.

Hardcastle set trial dates for the other seven infected patients, as well. Those cases will be spread out from December 2009 through June 2010, all with different judges.

•••

The anticipated run on marriage licenses began Wednesday at the Regional Justice Center.

As of 4:30 p.m., 383 couples had obtained marriage licenses, and more were expected before midnight, when the County Marriage License Bureau was to close for the day.

“It appears we’ll be doing double what we normally do,” Clark County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre said.

She expects the biggest crowd on Thursday, the day before flocks of couples make 08/08/08 their wedding date.

•••

When it comes to courtroom battles, Sheldon Adelson has been anything but a pushover.

But lawyers for Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith may be pushing him to his limits in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Attorneys Don Campbell and Richard McKnight filed court papers late last week asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bruce Markell to levy sanctions against the billionaire casino operator for ducking their efforts to get him under oath in a deposition.

It is the latest legal skirmish between Smith and Adelson since December 2005, when Adelson filed a multimillion-dollar libel suit against the columnist in Los Angeles Superior Court over the way Adelson was portrayed in Smith’s book, “Sharks in the Desert.”

On the eve of the trial in Los Angeles, Smith, no longer able to pay his lawyers to defend him, filed for Chapter 7 protection in Bankruptcy Court. That prompted Adelson to move his libel suit there.

Since the end of May, Adelson has evaded efforts to depose him in the Las Vegas case, thumbing his nose at the judge and, along with it, the federal rules for civil procedures, Campbell and McKnight allege.

“It is clear that Mr. Adelson failed to appear without legal justification or excuse,” they wrote.

The lawyers not only want Markell to order Adelson to show up for the deposition, they want the judge to make him pay for the time they have spent trying to get him to testify.

They also want Markell to order the jet-setting gaming mogul to provide a detailed chronology of his whereabouts from June to August, as well as where he plans to be in the next two months.

The fight is to continue at a Sept. 2 hearing in front of Markell.

Jeff German is the Sun’s senior investigative reporter.

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