Schoharie County

Another lawsuit filed in Schoharie limo crash; parents of victims blame repair shop

A man visits the limousine crash memorial in Schoharie on Sept. 29, shortly before the two-year anniversary of the disaster that left 20 people dead. (Erica Miller/Staff Photographer)

A man visits the limousine crash memorial in Schoharie on Sept. 29, shortly before the two-year anniversary of the disaster that left 20 people dead. (Erica Miller/Staff Photographer)

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

FONDA — Parents of seven victims of the 2018 Schoharie limousine disaster have filed a lawsuit against a company hired to maintain the limo before the crash that killed 20 people.

The Oct. 2 filing in state Supreme Court, Montgomery County, follows many other civil lawsuits filed in the wake of the crash. Others have targeted the owners of the limousine, the estate of the limo driver and state agencies, as well as the Mavis repair shop on South Broadway in Saratoga Springs that worked on the limo.

This latest litigation names as defendants only five corporate entities associated with Mavis Tire and 10 Doe entities (people, companies or government agencies that may in the future be identified and determined to have contributed to the cause of the wreck).

The four plaintiffs are suing the Mavis entities in their role as administrators of the estates of their seven children, Savannah Bursese, Mary King Dyson, Robert Dyson, Abigail Jackson, Adam G. Jackson, Alison King and Amy King Steenburg.

They and 10 other limo passengers were killed, along with the limo driver and two bystanders, when the limo crashed into a parked car and then an embankment at the intersection of routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie on Oct. 6, 2018.

Investigation has pointed to a catastrophic brake failure as the cause. The 2001 Ford Excursion, stretched to 31 feet long and weighing an estimated 13,500 pounds, was unable to slow down as it descended the steep Route 30 hill. Estimated speed when it reached Route 30A at the bottom of the hill was a little over 100 mph. 

All 20 victims were declared dead at the scene.

Through 340 paragraphs on 50 pages, the new lawsuit faults the limo’s brake system in the repetitive detail common to legal filings, with descriptions of corroded brake fluid lines, faulty pistons and calipers, contaminated brake fluid, worn pads, a Vise Grip plier crimping a brake line.

Outside the legal arena, the allegations could be summarized in a single sentence: The Mavis shop in Saratoga Springs was hired to repair and maintain the limo’s brake system, failed to do so properly, and knew or should have known the vehicle was at risk of crash because of this.

Mavis has rejected this assertion in other lawsuits targeting the company. In June 2020, after one such case was filed in state Supreme Court, Saratoga County, a Mavis spokesperson told The Daily Gazette:

“Our thoughts and condolences are with the victims of this tragic accident. However, Mavis bears no legal responsibility for this tragedy and the events that led up to it, and we will defend ourselves vigorously against all claims.”

Nauman Hussain, operator of Prestige Limousine of Wilton, faces 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, now pending in Schoharie County Court, for allegedly failing to maintain the vehicle’s brake systems.

The new lawsuit details numerous actions allegedly taken by Hussain that led to the limo being in service while unsafe to drive — well before it was hired to take the group of 17 friends from Amsterdam to a birthday party near Cooperstown that afternoon in 2018.

But the lawsuit places liability for Hussain’s actions entirely with the Mavis entities, rather than with Hussain and/or his father, who owned the limo company.

The legal filing recounts a manager of the Mavis shop purportedly telling Hussain that he hoped the brakes would hold, or else he’d need three new calipers; this was an admission he knew the brake system was grossly defective, the lawsuit asserts.

“Those affirmative acts enabled the Hussains to use a vehicular death trap that likely or inevitably would cause serious injury or death,” lawyers for the plaintiffs write.

The October 2018 crash, the deadliest transportation disaster the nation had seen in a decade, was caused solely by reason of Mavis’ “negligent, reckless, unlawful and/or willful acts,” the lawsuit asserts.

The plaintiffs are seeking a judgment to that effect, plus award of punitive and exemplary damages, costs, interest and any other relief the court deems proper.

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