FONDA — Attorneys for the estates of seven of the 20 people killed in the Schoharie limousine crash filed civil lawsuits Thursday, one against the owners of the limo company they consider responsible for the tragedy and the other against New York state itself.
A team of lawyers from three different law firms traveled to the Montgomery County Clerk’s office Thursday to file the complaint in Montgomery County Supreme Court against Shahed Hussain and his son Nauman A. Hussain, as well as the family’s companies, Prestige Limousine and Chauffeur Services, Saratoga Luxury Limousine and Hasy Limousine. The civil suit also names Mavis Discount Tire — technicians at a Mavis location worked on the vehicle in the months prior to the crash.
“This limousine should never have been on the road. These lawsuits allege that the owners of the limousine company, Mavis and the New York state received multiple warnings and notices that the limousine was unfit to be driven on the open road and certainly unfit to carry passengers. This lawsuit and the others filed regarding this tragic crash allege all of these entities knew of the danger,” said Cynthia LaFave, a partner in the law firm LaFave, Wein & Frament, representing Elizabeth Muldoon, the administratrix of crash victims Adam Jackson and Abigail Jackson.
The crash occurred Oct. 6, 2018, at the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie. A 2001 Ford Excursion limousine opened by Prestige came down the Route 30 hill and went past a stop sign at what witnesses said was a high rate of speed. It crossed Route 30A, went through the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store, and came to rest in a short ravine. All 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians in the Apple Barrel parking lot were killed.
Nauman Hussain, who was operating the company at the time of the crash, has been charged with 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide and is awaiting trial in Schoharie County Court. Prosecutors contend that the limo had numerous mechanical issues, including brake problems, and suffered a catastrophic brake failure while coming down the long hill on Route 30.
The civil lawsuit filed Thursday alleges Mavis Discount Tire, Inc., when commissioned to complete repair work on the limousine’s brakes in the months preceding the accident, did not perform the repairs to completion and invoiced for repairs that were never performed. Additionally, Mavis is alleged to have inspected the limousine even though the vehicle was not eligible for inspection and then issued an inspection sticker representing that the vehicle was street-legal.
The second lawsuit filed Thursday by the same team of lawyers was a claim in the New York State Court of Claims against the state of New York and the state Department of Transportation, marking the first time families of the crash victims have filed suit alleging the state is directly liable for the safety condition of the intersection of routes 30 and 30A.
A notice of claim, a required precursor to a civil lawsuit against a governmental entity, has been filed against New York state by the estate of Amanda Rivenburg, 29, who died in the crash. Rivenburg’s estate was the first to file a civil lawsuit against the owners of the limousine company earlier this year through the law firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo.
The estate of Erin McGowan of Amsterdam earlier this month also sued the state departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles in state Supreme Court in Albany County, stating the estate has been illegally denied access to public records regarding inspections, registration and repairs on the limousine.
Attorneys for the seven victims represented in the two lawsuits filed Thursday held a joint news conference after filing the suits. They said they have coordinated their efforts, the joint lawsuits seek an unspecified amount of monetary damages, and if the damages are awarded they will be specifically awarded to each estate, not divided among them from a lump sum.
The claimants/plaintiffs for the two lawsuits filed Thursday also include: Samuel Bursese, administrator of the estate of Savannah Bursese; Linda King, administratrix of the estates of Allison King, Amy King Steenburg and Mary King Dyson; and Dawn Dyson, administratrix of the estate of Robert Dyson.
The law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti represents Burses, the law offices of Matthew Cocca represent King, the law firm Tabner, Ryan & Keniry represents the estate of Amy Steenburg, and the law office of E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy represents Dyson.
“This tragic crash and resulting loss of life was entirely preventable and was due to the negligence of the defendants involved: the limousine company, the Hussains, Mavis, and the state,” said attorney Thomas Mortati of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. “The ripple effect from this crash, directly for the many families involved and to the community at large, is continuing to this day and we intend to hold these defendants accountable.”