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Lawsuit filed in Schoharie limo crash

Lawsuit filed in Schoharie limo crash

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Albany
Lawsuit filed in Schoharie limo crash
Amanda Rivenburg
Photographer: Provided

COLONIE -- Relatives of one of the 20 people killed last month in a limousine crash in Schoharie have filed a lawsuit against the limo company, its owner and operator.

The suit was filed Monday morning in Albany on behalf of the estate of 29-year-old Colonie resident Amanda Rivenburg, who died in the crash. It is believed to be the first lawsuit filed related to the crash.

The family is claiming negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death. It names the Gansvoort-based limo service, Prestige Limousine & Chauffeur Service, owner Shahed Hussain and operator Nauman Hussain.

The Rivenburg family attorney said on Monday that he expects the state to be named in future lawsuits related to the Route 30-30A intersection where the crash happened and because of the state's oversight of the limo company.

The suit filed Monday references failed inspections prior to the Oct. 6 crash, inspections that formed the basis for criminally negligent homicide charges against operator Nauman Hussain. 

"Despite actual notice of such inspection failures, as well as defendants' knowledge that the Ford Excursion had serious defects rendering it unsafe to operate, defendants dispatched the vehicle to pick up the 17 individuals, including ... Amanda R. Rivenburg," the suit states.

The crash happened as the stretch limousine carrying the driver and 17 passengers to a birthday celebration went through a stop sign at routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie on Oct. 6, striking and killing two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store.

Those in the limousine, including four sisters from Amsterdam and three of their spouses, were killed. The tragedy prompted community-wide outpourings of grief.

The crash was the nation's deadliest transportation-related incident in nearly a decade.

The Rivenburg family is represented by Albany-based attorney Salvatore Ferlazzo, who said on Monday that he was not aware of any other lawsuits having been filed. The Rivenburg family -- her parents, Thomas and Donna Rivenburg -- only received clearance from Surrogate Court to move forward as estate administrators on Friday.

The lawsuit will allow the family to formally receive and confirm information already out in the media and to seek other information.

"What this gives us is some subpoena powers," Ferlazzo said.

He said he has confirmed the limo company had insurance, but he is awaiting official word of the amount. Regardless, he noted insurance payouts are often capped per-incident, meaning whatever the insurance policy pays might have to be divided 20 ways.

But there also could be assets to go after and other potential responsible parties, Ferlazzo said. All that is expected to become more clear after the lawsuit gets underway, he said.

More: The Schoharie limo tragedy: The victims, the investigation, the community outpouring

Rivenburg was the associate director of the day community opportunities program at Living Resources, an organization in Albany that helps people with disabilities. 

Friends and co-workers described Rivenburg in social media posts as being a star employee at Living Resources, and as having found a true calling in her work with the disabled.

Ferlazzo said the Rivenburgs continue to cope as best they can.

"It's a tragedy which is hard to put into words," Ferlazzo said. "They're doing as one would expect -- a lot of sorrow."

Hussain family attorney Lee Kindlon indicated he had just received the lawsuit and could not comment earlier Monday.

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