Edward Norton skipped out on giving testimony in the cases over the deadly fire that broke out in the building where he was filming “Motherless Brooklyn,” outraged lawyers for the fire victims said in court Thursday.
The “Fight Club” actor was scheduled to be deposed on Feb. 20 about the blaze at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. that resulted in firefighter Michael Davidson’s death on March 22, 2018. But a week before the deposition, lawyers for Norton’s production company Class 5, Inc. notified the plaintiffs without explanation that Norton — who is not a defendant in the lawsuits — wouldn’t make the deposition.
“It is an emotional case,” said Vito Cannavo, the lawyer for Davidson’s widow Eileen Davidson, who has sued Class 5, the landlord and the city. “We ask for simple things. Your honor ordered that Mr. Norton should be produced on Feb. 20.”
“We get the email he’s not showing up. We are hoping that we would work this out, but it has become clear that we have gotten nothing but stonewalling,” Cannavo added at a Manhattan Supreme Court hearing.
“The deposition of Mr. Norton is not an invitation to a wedding or a dinner reservation it was a court order … signed by your honor,” said Elizabeth Eilender, a lawyer for four of the displaced tenants who have also filed suit.
“They are blowing off your honor’s order. It’s a disgrace,” Eilender said adding that this month is the two-year anniversary of the fire.
Eilender said the defendants “have been permitted to drag this [case] on through frivolous motions for almost two years.”
Class 5 lawyer Matthew Salerno countered that the plaintiffs are more interested in deposing Norton to grab headlines then they are in getting testimony from the landlord of the building or an executive of Class 5 who, they say, has more knowledge about the production process.
“It is all about one, single deposition,” Salerno said, adding that the plaintiffs have “no interest whatsoever” in taking the more relevant depositions.
“Sadly plaintiffs today once again showed that they are more interested in getting in the press than actually finding a recovery for their clients,” another Class 5 lawyer, Marvin Putnam said.
“The fire department investigations have shown both that the fire was caused by the boiler and that the sprinkler system was shut off by the buildings owner,” Putnam said, referring to a Fire Incident Report filed in Davidson’s case.
“Yet, they have neither sought to depose the building owner, nor demanded that he produce any discovery. They don’t want a recovery, they want a headline,” Putnam said.
Outside court, Eilender responded that Norton “was the writer, producer, director, and star of the movie … the fact that other people may also have knowledge doesn’t mean that he does not.
“In my experience, when I deal with high-profile parties, they think they are above the law and their lawyers try to protect them. Unfortunately for Mr. Norton, he is going to have to be inconvenienced.”
The deposition date for Norton has not been rescheduled.
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