ALBANY & SCHOHARIE — An appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that members of the Hussain family can’t sell four properties they own in the Capital Region while family members face potential civil liability for the 2018 Schoharie limousine crash in which 20 people were killed.
The five-judge Third Department Appellate Division last Thursday upheld a 2019 ruling by state Supreme Court Judge Thomas Buchanan that blocked the properties from being put up for sale, concluding that could be an effort to diminish the assets of the family.
The decision came on a case brought by the estate of Amanda Halse, one of the 17 young adult passengers killed in the Oct. 18, 2018, crash at the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie. The estate is concerned that selling the properties could make is easier for the defendants to hide assets or shift them beyond the reach of U.S. courts.
The estate, like those of other crash victims, is suing the Hussains for negligence and wrongful death. A state police investigation concluded the 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limousine crashed at the bottom of a long hill after the vehicle suffered brake failure due to inadequate maintenance of the braking systems.
Shad Hussain, sometimes known as Malik Hussain, was owner of the limousine company. He went to Pakistan in early 2018 and has not returned, leaving day-to-day operation of the limousine company to his son, Nauman. Nauman Hussain, 31, faces criminal charges: 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. He is free on bail pending a trial in Schoharie County Court that has been indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic.
While civil cases generally take a back seat to criminal proceedings in the court system, there have been a few preliminary civil motions, including the one to block property sales that might otherwise be used to satisfy any judgments.
Hussain family members own the former Crest Inn Suites and Cottages in Wilton and three residential properties in Saratoga Springs, Troy and Rensselaer. A corporation linked to them owns six other properties in Troy, Waterford and Rensselaer, according to the original court petition.
The residential properties listed as owned by Shahed or Nauman Hussain were all listed for sale after the crash and before the court blocked them. The Crest Inn was said to be close to a $1 million private sale prior to the state Health Department and town of Wilton shutting it down and condemning the buildings in the fall of 2019.
“The foregoing proof, particularly given that defendants placed the parcels at issue on the market when they knew or should have known that litigation related to the limousine accident was looming, readily permitted the inference that their actions were intended to frustrate enforcement of a potential money judgment against them,” the judges concluded.
The court order applies to Shahed Hussain; his son, Nauman; and Malik Riaz Hussain, who may be Shahed’s brother, and is a permanent resident of Pakistan.
The Hussains “have reason to frustrate any potential recovery of the Petitioner and other victims by moving the proceeds of any real estate and/or business sale outside of the United States to Pakistan or another foreign location,” Halse estate attorney George LaMarche wrote in an earlier court filing.
The crash, most of whose victims were from the Amsterdam area, was the subject of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation and has already brought about changes in state law, as well as proposed changes in federal regulations. However, the criminal and civil cases remain pending.