Apple Barrel to pay $500K settlement to estates of 2 pedestrians killed in Schoharie limo disaster

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Patrons of the Apple Barrel Cafe visit the memorial at Route 30 and Route 30A in Schoharie Tuesday, Ocotber 16, 2018.

ALBANY The estates of two pedestrians killed in the October 2018 Schoharie limousine disaster have reached a $500,000 settlement of their lawsuits against the Apple Barrel country store and cafe.

Brian Hough, 46, and his father-in-law, James Schnurr, 70, were standing outside of their unoccupied vehicle in the Apple Barrel parking lot when it was struck by an out of control limousine on Oct. 6, 2018.

The force of the impact caused the parked car to strike Hough and Schnurr, killing both of them. All 18 occupants of the limo, including the driver, were also killed when it crashed into a ravine due to brake failure.

The estates of the two bystanders filed civil lawsuits against the country store and cafe alleging the owners failed to address the known danger of vehicles entering the parking area at a high rate of speed after descending the steep hill on Route 30 at the intersection with Route 30A across from the lot due to past incidents.

Farm Family Casualty Insurance, the Apple Barrel’s carrier, offered $500,000 to settle the filed claims. Mother and daughter Joan and Jaclyn Schnurr agreed to split the insurance payout based on the lifetime expected incomes of their respective spouses at the time of the crash, according to documents filed in surrogate’s courts in Cayuga and Ulster counties.

The Hough estate will receive 70% of the settlement proceeds and the Schnurr estate will receive 30% less attorney fees and other expenses.

The agreements release the Apple Barrel and its insurance company from any further liability related to the Hough and Schnurr estates.

Decrees formalizing the settlements were signed in Ulster County Surrogate’s Court in February and Cayuga County Surrogate’s Court in April.

Notices discontinuing the complaints against the Apple Barrel were filed by the attorney for the estates, Michael Wolford of Bond, Schoeneck & King, in state Supreme Court in Albany on June 7.

The settlement was first reported by the Times Union citing details provided by Wolford. He declined to comment on the matter when reached by The Recorder due to a confidentiality agreement signed by his clients as part of the agreement.

“It was my mistake, I should not have said anything,” Wolford said Monday.

Robert Loden, the owner of the Apple Barrel, had raised concerns over the safety of the parking lot following property damage from vehicles experiencing brake failure on Route 30 in a letter to the state Department of Transportation in September 2012.

“If a brake failure were to occur on a busy fall weekend, multiple lives are at risk as well as the property,” Loden wrote at the time.

Loden’s letter and DOT’s subsequent responses initially restricting trucks exceeding 18 tons and later those exceeding 5 tons from traveling southbound down the Route 30 hill were filed as supporting exhibits in state Supreme Court in Albany in the lawsuits against the Apple Barrel.

The complaints against the cafe and country store claimed that no action was taken by the property owners to prevent crashes like the one that occurred in the parking lot despite the known risk at the dangerous intersection.

The lawsuits argued the Apple Barrel should have erected barriers to stop vehicles or posted warnings against parking in the area of the lot where the crash occurred after the owners alerted DOT to their concerns.

Dennis First, the attorney representing the Apple Barrel, did not immediately return a call seeking comment for this story on Monday.

The Hough and Schnurr estates and other surviving families of the crash victims still have civil lawsuits pending against Prestige Limousine, operator Nauman Hussain, owner Shahed Hussain, Mavis Discount Tire and the state.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the stretched 2001 Ford Excursion limo that crashed should not have been on the road. The vehicle’s badly maintained and aging brakes failed and caused the crash.

The NTSB primarily faulted Prestige and operator Nauman Hussain for the crash for not maintaining the vehicle properly. Ineffective DOT and state Department of Motor Vehicles oversight contributed. Mavis allegedly failed to repair the limo’s brakes and issued a DOT inspection sticker despite knowingly lacking that authority for large-capacity vehicles.

Only Nauman Hussain has faced criminal charges for his role in the crash to date. He pleaded guilty to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide as part of an agreement that avoids prison time. Shahed Hussain was in Pakistan at the time of the crash and has not returned to the United States.

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

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By Ashley Onyon

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