By on May 26, 2011

The US Department of Justice is deploying all of its legal muscle to avoid paying the price after an FBI agent destroyed an exotic car during a joy ride. After nearly two years of trying to recover the money owed by the government, Motors Insurance Company filed a lawsuit against the government seeking the full $750,000 value of the wrecked 1995 Ferrari F50.

The vehicle originally had been stolen in 2003 from a Ferrari dealer in Pennsylvania. Motors paid the $630,000 insurance claim, giving the firm title to the missing exotic. On August 12, 2008, the FBI stumbled upon the car in Kentucky during a separate investigation. The agency held the vehicle with permission from Motors. On May 27, 2009, FBI Special Agent Frederick C. Kingston got behind the wheel of a 1995 Ferrari F50 with by Assistant US Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson in the passenger seat.

“Just a few seconds after we left the parking lot, we went around a curve, and the rear of the car began sliding,” Thompson wrote in an email to Managing Assistant US Attorney E.J. Walbourn on the day of the incident. “The agent tried to regain control, but the car fishtailed and slid sideways up onto the curb. The vehicle came to rest against a row of bushes and a small tree. Both myself and the agent exited of our own power.”

A claims adjuster noted the frame was bent, rendering the vehicle — now worth $750,000 in working condition — a total loss. DOJ began stonewalling when Motors tried to get information about what happened. The agency refused to honor a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any documents regarding the storage and use of the vehicle on the day of the accident. The request was denied as “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Motors filed a separate lawsuit to force the disclosure of agency records concerning the Ferrari.

“Based on the denial of Motors Insurance Company’s claim, plaintiff anticipates that DOJ and FBI will claim immunity against civil liability under 28 USC Section 2680(c) and assert that the vehicle was damaged while in the detention of law enforcement authorities,” Motors attorney Richard C. Kraus wrote in an April 14 lawsuit. “The information requested under FOIA and withheld by DOJ and FBI will be necessary to determine whether 28 USC Section 2680(c) applies.”

That is precisely what DOJ has done. The agency insists sovereign immunity prohibits the suit, and no negligence claim can arise because federal law prohibits claims against the government for goods damaged while detained by law enforcement.

“The exception applies to bar suit against the United States and does not permit litigation over the reasonableness of the law enforcement officer’s conduct in question,” Assistant Attorney General Tony West wrote in a May 9 brief to the court. “The broad interpretation of the detention-of-goods exception, coupled with the necessity that the court construe the United States’ waiver of sovereign immunity strictly in favor of the sovereign, require a finding that the United States has not consented to this sort of suit and plaintiff has failed to state a claim under federal law. Accordingly, the United States respectfully requests that the above-captioned action be dismissed with prejudice.”

US District Judge Avern Cohn on Tuesday set a June 22 date for final briefs on the government’s motion to dismiss the suit.

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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23 Comments on “FBI Joy Ride Wrecks Ferrari, DOJ Refuses to Pay Damages...”


  • avatar
    highrpm

    Interesting to note that when the insurance company paid out on the Ferrari, it was only worth $630k. Years later, when the insurance company wanted money for the same vehicle, suddenly it is worth $750k to them.

    There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Just goes to show that some people took “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” ‘way too seriously!

  • avatar
    subarooo

    the back story behind this car is pretty wild. a pilot literally stole the car right off the lot in 2003 and it hadn’t been seen until the FBI got him for tax fraud. the guy even took the thing to car shows in the south. http://articles.philly.com/2011-04-15/news/29421470_1_car-batmobile-salesman

  • avatar
    protomech

    Remember kids: if you are detained in the process of nanolaw, hope the FBI doesn’t take your car out for a joyride.
    http://www.ftrain.com/nanolaw.html

    Seems a bit of a conflict of interest to let the DOJ adjudicate a suit against the DOJ.

  • avatar
    cfclark

    “Just a few seconds after we left the parking lot, we went around a curve, and the rear of the car began sliding,” Thompson wrote in an email to Managing Assistant US Attorney E.J. Walbourn on the day of the incident. “The agent tried to regain control, but the car fishtailed and slid sideways up onto the curb. The vehicle came to rest against a row of bushes and a small tree. Both myself and the agent exited of our own power.”

    I guess they don’t teach you about snap oversteer at Quantico.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      You have to wonder what sort of speeds you would need to make an F50 slide… Like years ago I saw an F355 Spider that had spun out on a not-quite-straight section of freeway (I’m talking a 3500ft radius curve) and went backwards into a concrete light pole base – how?!?

  • avatar
    tced2

    quote: The agency refused to honor a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any documents regarding the storage and use of the vehicle on the day of the accident. The request was denied as “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

    I wonder whose “personal privacy” was being protected. US government? Department of Justice? These are not “persons” and probably don’t have “personal privacy”.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Seems to be an inverse of the song “Brilliant Red Barchetta.” By the band Rush.

    Perhaps we are existing in some strange parallel universe?

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Shut up, you tiny fools. We are your rulers. And we know what’s best for all of us.

    Why aren’t the agent and the lawyer personally liable? I think it is highly doubtful that joyriding a car, any car, is part of the job description of either.

  • avatar
    uncleAl

    We are from the government, and we are here to help you.
    Resistance is futile.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The Federal Government Giveth,
    The Federal Goverment Taketh Away,
    Blessed is the name of the Federal Government.

    On your faces fools, can’t you see you need to grovel?

  • avatar
    Adub

    Wow. Who would think a federal agent would abuse his power and joyride in an exotic car? This is like all the SEC attorneys busted for surfing for porn all day. Guys even called IS to ask for more hard drive space!

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      I still can’t get over the official description of the accident: “we went around a curve, and the rear of the car began sliding,” as if this all happened in a vacuum, unrelated to any action on the part of the (joyriding) driver. I half expected to see, “stupid Ferrari, I never liked it anyway, so there!”

      • 0 avatar

        It’s deliberately written in the passive voice, to avoid implicating the driver.

      • 0 avatar
        cfclark

        @Ronnie: Well, of course. ;) Mistakes were made, protocols were violated, Ferraris were totaled. Passive voice has been used by our government for decades, and it has been largely accepted by us. The whole thing has been found by me to be amusing.

        A headache has been produced by posting this way which has been engaged in by me.

  • avatar
    EEGeek

    The lesson I get from this story is never consent to letting the feds keep your stuff: “The agency held the vehicle with permission from Motors.”

    Only the government is in a position to say “You’ll get nothing, and like it!”

  • avatar
    ajla

    Looks like MotorTrend has found their next hires.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    you would think those people would get a flatbed truck and tow away a car that valuable…

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    Interesting that the government doesn’t have any sort of insurance in case they goof stuff up.


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