The family of a newlywed Amsterdam couple who – along with 18 others – died in last fall’s horrific limousine crash in Schoharie is suing Mavis Discount Tire over an allegedly illegal inspection and shoddy brake repairs made to the stretch Ford Excursion in the months before the tragedy. The suit was filed in late August by attorneys for the family of Erin and Shane McGowan, who were celebrating with 15 other friends when the 34-foot limo plummeted into a ravine and slammed into an embankment, killing everyone inside, along with two bystanders.
“These knowing and willful acts reveal that the defendant, Mavis Discount Tire Inc., engaged in conduct so as to show complete disregard for the rights and safety of the decedents and others, and constitutes gross negligence,” the suit asserts. The suit was authored by attorney Paul Davenport of Lombardi, Walsh, Davenport & Amodeo in Colonie. The suit also names the limo company, Prestige Limousine, its owner, Shahed Hussain, as well as Hussain’s son, Nauman, who was operating the company when the crash occurred Oct. 6, 2018.
In a statement, a Mavis spokesperson said, “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.”
The suit could open other avenues for the families of the victims to receive more money than they are being told they are entitled to by the limo company’s insurer. Prestige Limousine had a $500,000 policy in place for death due to a crash; that policy will pay out $25,000 per victim.
The connection of the Mavis auto repair shop in Saratoga Springs has been known by State Police since the early days of their investigation. In June 2017, the super-stretch SUV limo was observed by a state DOT inspector in a Mavis parking lot. The Times Union reported that the Excursion’s operator, Nauman Hussain, had obtained a motor vehicle inspection sticker from the shop in May 2018.
Hussain is charged with 20 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide. He’s scheduled to go on trial in Jan. in Schoharie County Court.
The suit, filed on behalf of the McGowans, claims that Mavis “knowingly and willfully” inspected the Excursion five months before the crash “without the authority to do so” and without a properly trained inspector. Earlier that year, the state DOT ordered the Excursion off the road after it failed a safety inspection showing the brakes were unsafe. Hussain evaded state regulations that the limo be certified by the DOT and undergo special DOT inspections because of its size.
A State Police consultant determined that “catastrophic brake failure” caused the crash. Under state law, state inspection stations are supposed to refuse to inspect large stretch limos and instead direct them to the state DOT for special bus inspections because of their size.
The action against Mavis is the second lawsuit filed in the case on behalf of the victims’ families. In November, Sal Ferlazzo, an Albany attorney representing the family of Amanda Rivenburg, sued the limo company and Nauman Hussain in state Supreme Court in Albany. Ferlazzo also filed a notice with the state Court of Claims that Rivenburg’s family intends to sue the state directly over the crash, alleging the state failed to fix design flaws at the intersection of Route 30 and Route 30A.