Attorney wants 173 interviews halted

Friday, December 19, 2003


Jan P. Helder, an attorney representing residents suing Dow Chemical Co., has asked for a protective order to stop the company from interviewing all 173 named litigants.

He called the interviews unnecessary, annoying and burdensome when sessions with 10 to 40 residents would suffice.

"We're talking about anywhere from 10 to 12 witnesses per day, all the way through Jan. 23," Helder said. "That is unnecessary for the purposes of class certification. We're not saying that Dow doesn't get to depose them. We're saying there is no reason to do it now."

Helder filed a protective order Wednesday urging Saginaw County Chief Circuit Judge Leopold P. Borrello to limit the number of interviews.

He also argued that interviews scheduled during the last week of December are unrealistic in light of the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays.

Dow attorneys are scheduled to interview all 173 litigants between Monday, Dec. 29, and Friday, Jan. 23.

Dow spokesman Scot Wheeler said the issue already was resolved in the courtroom. Referring to transcripts of Monday's court hearing, he said residents' attorneys have agreed to the depositions.

Michael F. Saunders, representing the residents, was quoted in the transcript as saying, "What we're saying is go ahead, take whatever depositions of those original 179 you want to take. We're not trying to limit that whatsoever."

The transcript then quoted Borrello saying, "Dow will proceed to take whatever discovery they wish on the 179."

Wheeler said the record speaks for itself. He argued that the protective order is another attempt by residents' attorneys to suppress information.

"There is a continued trend of attempting to dodge discovery," he said.

Helder disputed the spokesman's claim. He said Dow has misinterpreted the court transcript.

"We are not trying to limit discovery," he said. "They are welcome to take depositions on those people. They just can't do it in advance of class certification."

As for meeting during the holidays, Wheeler provided The Saginaw News with a letter to Bruce Trogan, an attorney for the residents, in which Dow attorneys state that they were "willing to work" with residents to arrange a more suitable meeting time.

"Please contact us if you have concerns," it read.

Wheeler said the company's attorneys have received no response.

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday. t

Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer for The Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

2003 Saginaw News.

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