Judge decides doctors must give depositions

Dr. Dipak Desai and the three other doctors who owned the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada must give depositions this month in litigation related to the ongoing hepatitis C crisis.

The ruling Tuesday by District Judge Allan Earl pertains to a pending class action lawsuit involving the tens of thousands of patients who did not contract a blood borne disease at the clinic, but who had to undergo testing to see whether they were infected.

Earl's order followed a June hearing at which Desai's attorney asked that the civil lawsuit be postponed until the end of any criminal case, arguing that whatever is said in a civil deposition can be used in a potential criminal trial.

But plaintiff's attorney Will Kemp said Desai and the other doctors involved -- Eladio Carrera, Clifford Carrol and Vishvinder Sharma -- can always invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination during depositions.

"That's not hard to do," Kemp said, though he noted that a "negative inference" can be taken from such a reply.

Attorneys for Desai, Carrera and Carrol said Tuesday that their clients would exercise their Fifth Amendment right. Sharma's attorney was unavailable for comment.

Earl, who is handling pretrial issues in the civil cases spawned by the hepatitis outbreak linked to Desai's clinics, also ordered that attorneys for the clinics make available to plaintiffs' attorneys a variety of business records, including contracts with vendors.

"We want to be sure that everyone who should be a party to this lawsuit is," said attorney Ed Bernstein, who represents hundreds of former patients at the clinic.