U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux ruled on Monday, however, that the Derderians cannot be deposed and do not have to answer more detailed questions from victims' lawyers at this point.
The brothers and Daniel Biechele, the former manager for the rock band Great White, each face 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at the West Warwick nightclub.
The fire started when pyrotechnics set off by Biechele ignited highly flammable foam that the Derderians had installed as soundproofing at the nightclub. One hundred people were killed and more than 200 injured. All three defendants have pleaded innocent to the criminal charges.
In court Monday, the Derderians' civil lawyer, Anthony DeMarco, argued that forcing the Derderians to respond to the civil suits at this point would jeopardize their right to a fair trial in the criminal case.
Many of the survivors and the victims' families have filed civil suits seeking damages for their losses.
DeMarco argued that the allegations against the brothers in those lawsuits - that they contributed to overcrowding at their nightclub, installed defective, flammable material in the club, violated state law regarding pyrotechnics, and failed to provide proper exits and lighting at the club - are the same allegations that their criminal case is based on.
If the Derderians were required to answer the lawsuits at this point, he says in court papers, they would have to assert their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and this could hurt their defense in the lawsuits.
But Steven Minicucci, one of the lawyers representing the fire victims, said those filing suits could be irreparably harmed if the civil case against the Derderians was put on hold until after the criminal case was over.
Even if a jury were to determine that the Derderians were liable for monetary damages in the civil cases, they do not have sufficient money to compensate all the victims, so the plaintiffs need to seek out every possible defendant, Minicucci said.