Insurance policy for Schoharie limo driver paying $100K to victims

ALBANY — The insurance company for the driver of the limousine that crashed in Schoharie, killing 20, sent a $100,000 insurance payment for the victims to the Albany court that is overseeing the civil litigation in the matter.

The money being paid by Progressive Insurance, which insured Scott Lisinicchia, will eventually pay each of the 19 victims’ estates $5,266. A payment will not be made to the estate of Lisinicchia, who was driving the limousine with 17 passengers on board when its brakes failed on Oct. 6, 2018, sending the vehicle plummeting down a hill and into a parking lot where everyone in the vehicle and two pedestrians died.

The payment is but a fraction of the money the families of the victims hope to ultimately obtain through litigation. But so far, the agreed-to settlements have been modest. The other insurance money due to victims is the $500,000 payout from Global Liberty Insurance Co. of New York, which had insured the Excursion and the limo company, Prestige Limousine of Wilton.

In that case, attorneys for Global Liberty Insurance are being paid $18,243.50 from that $500,000, with the remainder going to the victims’ families, which will amount to about $24,087 each.

As of right now, all but Lisinicchia’s family is guaranteed at least $29,353 in insurance payments from the limo company and Lisinicchia. That doesn’t include any claims the families may have made on the policies of the victims such as life insurance policies.

But the families seek much higher compensation. Several have sued New York state, members of the Hussain family that owned Prestige Limousine, and Malik Riaz Hussain, a close relative of the Hussain family who lives in Pakistan and would sometimes provide financial support to his New York relatives. The estates are suing Mavis Discount Tire, which serviced the Excursion.

The civil litigation is being coordinated in state Supreme Court in Albany, where the insurance payments are being sent. 

The cases could drag on for years and some defendants may ultimately be dropped from the case. Riaz Hussain, who has already answered questions in a deposition that was done with an Urdu translator, has asked the judge to drop him from the case.

Riaz Hussain is the founder of Bahria Town, which makes gated communities for middle-class families in Pakistan. He is considered to be one of the richest men in Pakistan. He is the uncle of Nauman Hussain, who managed Prestige Limousine at the time of the crash. Nauman Hussain’s father Shahed Hussain was the legal owner of the business but had left for Pakistan in early 2018 and never returned.

Nauman Hussain, 31, pleaded guilty earlier this month to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide in exchange for a sentence that spares him of prison time. His penalty includes five years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service. The younger Hussain had been accused of failing to maintain the brakes on the Excursion.

Shahed Hussain, a longtime FBI informant, was never questioned by authorities after the crash, which remains the nation’s worst highway transportation disaster in more than a decade.

The families are suing the state Department of Transportation and the state Department of Motor Vehicles for alleged missteps that allowed the Hussains to keep renting out the Excursion to the public even after it failed multiple DOT roadside inspections and the vehicle was ordered off the road until fixed. That lawsuit is still pending in the obscure Court of Claims where the public must sue the state and its agencies.

Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery struck the no-prison deal in part so that Nauman Hussain would be free to testify in the civil litigation cases.

Mavis is one of the most significant defendants in those cases because State Police investigators uncovered evidence that a Mavis employee forged the invoices of brake work that Nauman Hussain asked to have done at the Saratoga Springs shop. The district attorney’s office has obtained video of interactions between Hussain and Mavis employees, who put a passing state inspection sticker on the limo just months before the crash even though the vehicle was not eligible for inspection at the repair shop.

Mavis has denied any wrongdoing.