ALBANY — Some families of those killed in the 2018 Schoharie limousine crash have “agreed in principle” to settlements with Mavis Discount Tire in their wrongful death lawsuits against the auto repair chain, according to new court documents.
The documents were handed down Wednesday, the same day that Nauman Hussain, the 33-year-old operator of Prestige Limousine & Chauffeur Service, received a 5-to-15 year state prison sentence after being convicted of manslaughter earlier in May for his role in the Oct. 6, 2018 crash that killed 20.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Denise Hartman in a case management order said that “some of the plaintiffs and the Mavis defendants have agreed in principle to settlement.” No details on the settlements, which were first reported by the Times Union, were provided.
Hartman also indicated that “several other plaintiffs are engaged in mediations and/or serious settlement negotiations” with the Westchester County-based company.
“Several other plaintiffs believe that settlement of their cases is unlikely at this time,” Hartman wrote.
The judge also ordered the discovery process, where both sides provide evidence to each other, to be paused until July 27 “to allow potential settlements to be consummated.”
It’s unclear what lawsuits may have been settled and which ones are in the mediation phase. The families of those killed filed separate lawsuits, and while Hartman presides over each case, Mavis must negotiate settlements individually.
Mavis Discount Tire declined to comment.
The lawsuits were filed against the company after it was discovered that a Mavis repair shop in Saratoga Springs serviced the brakes of the stretched 2001 Ford Excursion SUV involved in the deadly wreck on several occasions in the months leading to the crash.
The repair shop also placed a DMV safety inspection sticker on the vehicle despite not having the authority to inspect motor carrier vehicles. Limousines are instead subject to more rigorous inspections carried out by the state’s Department of Transportation.
Lee Kindlon, a defense attorney for Hussain, attempted to blame the crash on Mavis during Hussain’s trial, getting the shop’s former manager, Virgil Park, to admit the limo operator was charged for brake work that was never completed on the stretched Excursion.
A mechanic at the shop, Thomas Klingman, also admitted that he never examined the limo during a DMV inspection, but instead passed the vehicle because he felt pressured by Park and did not want to lose his job.
Investigators determined the crash was caused by catastrophic brake failure that occurred while the limo was descending a steep hill on state Route 30.
A rear brake line burst, rendering the back brakes of the limo inoperable, putting additional strain on the vehicle’s front brakes, which overheated and caused the brake pads to melt, according to court testimony.
The crash happened shortly after a group of 17 friends boarded the vehicle on their way to a birthday celebration at a Cooperstown brewery. The group, vehicle’s driver and two by-standers were killed after the vehicle crossed the intersection of Route 30A at speeds in excess of 100 mph, striking a vehicle in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store and settling into a culvert.
Hussain was warned repeatedly that the limo was not in compliance with state and federal vehicle registration and inspection requirements, but ignored repeated attempts to bring the vehicle into compliance, which would have subjected the limo to state inspections that could have prevented the crash.
State Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch handed down the maximum sentence for Hussain, but several families have said that justice is “incomplete” until Mavis is criminally charged for its role in the wreck.
The Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office has requested materials from state police on the repair shop, a sign that a criminal investigation could be pending.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.