Schoharie County

Schoharie crash driver’s estate files lawsuit

Friends and family members hold candles, pray and sing on Oct. 6, 2019, at the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook in Amsterdam during the one-year memorial tribute to those who died in the Schoharie limousine crash in 2018. (Gazette file photo)

Friends and family members hold candles, pray and sing on Oct. 6, 2019, at the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook in Amsterdam during the one-year memorial tribute to those who died in the Schoharie limousine crash in 2018. (Gazette file photo)

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

The widow of the driver killed in the deadly Schoharie limousine crash and his estate have sued the limousine’s owners and Mavis Discount Tire, which serviced the vehicle brakes on repeated occasions prior to the Oct. 6, 2018 crash that killed 20 people.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Scott Lisinicchia estate and Kim Lisinicchia details multiple flaws with stretched 2001 Ford Excursion’s braking systems, and says the vehicle should never have been allowed on the road in the condition it was in. It alleges Lisinicchia suffered pain and injury and wrongful death.

“As a result of the Defendants’ negligent, reckless, wanton and intentional conduct, the limo experienced brake failure and crashed killing Scott Lisinicchia and all the passengers in the limo,” states the lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Saratoga County Clerk’s office. It seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The Lisinicchia lawsuit is the latest of nearly two dozen lawsuits or notices of claim filed by the families of victims in the crash, which killed Lisinicchia, all 17 passengers in the limousine, and two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store. It was the worst transportation crash in the United States in nearly a decade.

Lisinicchia, 53, of Lake George, was a driver who worked at times for Prestige Limousine of Wilton. Company operator Nauman Hussain contacted Lisinicchia the morning of the crash asking if he was willing to drive a party of young adults from Amsterdam to a birthday celebration in Cooperstown, and he agreed — even though his commercial driver’s license didn’t qualify him to transport so many passengers.

It was the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. The stretch limousine would end up speeding through the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie at more than 100 mph that afternoon, striking a vehicle in the Apple Barrel parking lot, and slamming to rest in a small ravine, crushing the front of the vehicle.

A state police investigation — and this past week, the final report from a two-year investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board — concluded the aging limousine suffered a massive brake failure as it came down the long Route 30 hill, and that the failure was due to inadequate maintenance of a failing brake system.

An autopsy found traces of marijuana and prescription drugs in Lisinicchia’s system, but the NTSB concluded that that was not a factor in the crash.

Named as defendants in the new lawsuit were Mavis Discount Tire, Prestige Limousine operator Nauman Hussain, and his father, Shahed Hussain, who owned the company, as well as several corporate names under which the limo company operated, from 2016 until the time of the crash.

In criminal court, Nauman Hussain, 30, faces 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, with trial pending in Schoharie County Court. Shahed Hussain, a native of Pakistan, was in that country at the time of the crash, and has not returned to the United States.

The police and federal investigations have found numerous efforts by the Hussains to mischaraterize the vehicle to avoid the federal registration and higher state vehicle inspection requirements for high-capacity limousines. The Lisinicchia lawsuit accuses the Mavis Discount Tire shop in Saratoga Springs of being complicit in those efforts, and said Mavis knowingly allowed the vehicle on the road with brake repairs the company knew were inadequate.

The lawsuit lays out a crash scenario in which the limousine’s rear brakes weren’t operating — and hadn’t in months, according to the complaint — and the overworked front brakes then overheated and failed as the vehicle came down the Route 30 hill, gaining speed as it descended 1.8 miles.

“Descedent Scott Lisinicchia suffered severe conscious emotional, mental and physical injuries, pain and suffering prior to said crash, including terrifying traumatic observations and knowledge of imminent violent crash and his inevitable serious physical injury and/or death,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit was brought by attorney Francis X. Young of White Plains. Lisinicchia’s brother Keith, who is his estate’s executor, lives nearby in southwestern Connecticut.

The Hussains have denied any legal responsibility for the crash. Mavis Discount Tire has expressed sympathy for the victims, but said all the repair work it did was done properly, and it is not legal responsible for what occurred during the crash.

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