Mavis points finger at others seeking dismissal from Schoharie limo lawsuits

A Mavis Discount tire location

Mavis Discount Center, 45 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. (File photo)

Article Audio:

ALBANY — The attorney for Mavis Discount Tire claimed the actions of the operators of the limousine driven during the 2018 Schoharie crash made the vehicle’s failure “inevitable,” while arguing the company’s appeal seeking its dismissal from civil lawsuits filed by victims’ families.

Mavis is appealing the denial by Acting Supreme Court Justice Denise Hartman of its motion for dismissal in April 2021. Oral arguments on the appeal were heard by a panel of four judges in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Albany on Wednesday.

Attorney Benjamin Allee, representing Mavis, argued the civil lawsuits identify Prestige Limousine, operator Nauman Hussain, owner Shahed Hussain as the primary defendants without sufficiently showing that “Mavis’ conduct exacerbated the dangerous conditions.”

“There is a critical threshold issue, the allegations and claims don’t meet requirements,” Allee said.

The 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limo was ordered off the road by the state Department of Transportation after failing inspection on Sept. 4, 2018. Hussain allegedly later removed the out of service sticker from the vehicle and sent it out on the day of the crash on Oct. 6, 2018.

The limo was hired to drive a group of 17 friends and family mostly from Amsterdam to a birthday celebration. All 17 passengers, the limo driver, and two bystanders in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store were killed at the intersection of Routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie when the vehicle suffered catastrophic brake failure.

Those actions happened “long after” Mavis allegedly serviced and inspected the limo, according to Allee, who argued the civil complaints fail to show actions by the auto repair chain directly caused the vehicle’s failure as required by law.

Attorney Thomas Mortati, representing all plaintiffs in the civil suits for the purpose of responding to the appeal, rejected the assertions regarding Mavis’ responsibility.

“Mavis was in on it based on our allegations,” Mortati said. “We’ve alleged willful malicious conduct on the part of the Hussains, but of course again in conjunction with Mavis aiding and abetting what happened here.”

The lawsuits contend the limo was brought to Mavis for brake service on or about Sept. 10, 2016. During Mavis’ replacement of a rotor, the rear brake line was bent, causing it to collapse. Mechanics did not subsequently replace the line as called for by industry standards.

Around the same date, Hussain allegedly put a vice grip on the left rear brake hose to disable it and the right rear brake caliper stopped working sometime later. Mavis purportedly informed the limo operator of the defects in immediate need of repair.

The complaints claim that Hussain informed mechanics he planned to sell the limo and did not want to spend the money on all of the repairs. The suits contend that Mavis agreed to perform limited, temporary repairs to the master cylinder and the left rear brake caliper, pads and hose.

However, the left rear brake caliper was reportedly installed improperly. In spite of the remaining defects, Mavis allegedly went on to unlawfully issue a state Department of Motor Vehicles inspection sticker for the limo. The vehicle was subject to more stringent inspections by DOT based on its size.

“Our people … couldn’t have known it was an illegal inspection sticker, we’ve alleged that to them they relied on this,” Mortati said.

Since the motion for dismissal is being made before the civil cases have been decided, allegations must be accepted as true at this stage. Allee therefore could not dispute the arguments, but maintained that Mavis’ alleged actions did not directly cause the crash.

“The question that arises that I do stand here ready to answer is; did the alleged inspection make Nauman Hussain’s Excursion worse? Did it launch an instrument of harm,” Allee said. “The answer is clearly no.”

“It allowed an instrument to be launched,” Presiding Justice Elizabeth Garry interjected.

Moreover, Mortati noted discovery has yet to be completed in the civil complaints. He indicated granting the dismissal based on legal points relating to cause normally decided by a jury would be premature at this stage.

A decision has not yet been rendered on the appeal, but Justice Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald indicated it would be difficult for Allee to make his case for dismissal.

“You’ve got a pretty good hill to climb,” Fitzgerald said. “You say the failure was inevitable, but that’s pretty tough to prove.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

Leave a Reply