Legal grilling for OJ as families claim damages

TIM CORNWELL

Washington

OJ Simpson, acquitted in court of the murders of his former wife Nicole and her friend, Ronald Goldman, faces questioning next week by lawyers acting for the families of the victims in a civil suit against him.

Mr Simpson returned to his Los Angeles home by private jet from Florida on Saturday. He denied plans to marry the model Paula Barbieri, who met him in Florida.

The former football star did not testify in his own defence at trial, but cannot safely plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination in the civil cases, most legal experts believe. He is scheduled to answer questions in a first pre-trial interview on 30 October.

Mr Simpson's former father-in-law, Louis Brown, has sued him for killing his daughter with "malice aforethought", claiming he "left her on the walkway in front of her residence to die".

In two separate law suits, the mother and father of Goldman, a waiter, allege Mr Simpson killed him with "vicious and outrageous savagery". All three are claiming damages which could run into millions of dollars.

Mr Simpson's attorneys say because of his acquittal he cannot face punitive damages, which jurors typically use to impose the biggest awards. They have not indicated whether he will meet the families' attorneys. One of the defence team, F Lee Bailey, said there was "not a single question" Mr Simpson was not ready to answer.

A wealthy celebrity defendant whose case is often compared to Mr Simpson's, Claus von Bulow, was sued for $56m (pounds 36m) by his step-children after being acquitted in 1985 of the attempted murder of his former wife. He agreed to abandon any claim to her fortune and the case was dropped.

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