Bridge suits' move to state sought

By Bob Doucette Published: August 2, 2002
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Attorneys representing victims from the May 26 bridge collapse near Webbers Falls filed a joint motion Thursday to have legal proceedings moved to Oklahoma.

Magnolia Marine Transport, owner of the towboat that accidentally pushed two barges into the Interstate 40 bridge and caused it to collapse, filed a motion in a Mississippi federal court to have its liability limited to $1.2 million. The company also wants all legal matters concerning the disaster to be heard in Mississippi.

But victims' families attorneys think the proceedings should be heard in the federal court for eastern Oklahoma. Their motion asks the Mississippi court to transfer all of the bridge-related cases to Muskogee.

"There's several hundred witnesses involved, and all of them live in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas," said John Merritt, an attorney representing the relatives of Jim, Misty and Shae Johnson. The Johnsons were three of the 14 killed in the collapse.

Magnolia Marine plans to oppose the motion.

"We think the proper venue is where Magnolia is located," said Frank Dantone, an attorney representing the company. "Also, the pilot of the boat lives within that district and the crew of the boat live in or near that district."


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