Judge Absolves FBI Over Ferrari Destroying Joy Ride

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

A federal judge on September 27 absolved the US Department of Justice (DOJ) from any liability after an FBI agent destroyed a $750,000 Ferrari during a joy ride. Motors Insurance Corporation had been seeking to recover the value of a 1995 Ferrari F50 that was in the custody of department officials. Motors dropped a separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit against the department on October 3.

The vehicle in question originally had been stolen in 2003 from Algar Ferrari, a Pennsylvania dealership. Motors paid the $630,000 insurance claim, which gave Motors title to the missing exotic. Ferrari only produced 349 of the highly sought-after F50s, so its value increased over time. On August 12, 2008, the FBI stumbled upon the stolen car in Lexington, Kentucky during an investigation into a separate crime. The agency held the vehicle with permission from Motors while the thief was investigated. On May 27, 2009, FBI Special Agent Frederick C. Kingston got behind the wheel of the Ferrari 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 a superior. “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.”

The car was totaled, and the DOJ refused to accept any responsibility, asserting sovereign immunity. The department stonewalled all requests from Motors seeking information regarding the incident. The Federal Tort Claims Act does allow for an individual to recover damages caused by the negligence of federal employees while acting within the scope of their employment. This law, however, includes a “detention-of-goods” exception, 28 US Code Section 2680(c), that absolves the government from claims “arising in respect of… the detention of any goods” by a law enforcement officer.

US District Court Judge Avern Cohn found that the exception covered the case at hand because the Ferrari was being detained by law enforcement.

“It is certainly unfortunate what befell MIC’s vehicle,” Judge Cohn ruled. “However, the vehicle was damaged while being detained by law enforcement officers within the meaning of Section 2680(c). As such, the government cannot be liable under the FTCA for what occurred. Accordingly, the government’s motion is granted. This case is dismissed.”

Cohn noted that presuming the car was destroyed during a “joy ride” would have made it even harder to recover damages because that would mean the agents had acted outside the scope of their official duties. As such, the government would not be liable for their conduct.

A copy of the ruling is available in a 30k PDF file at the source link below.


Motors Insurance Company v. US (US District Court, Eastern District Michigan, 9/27/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

The Newspaper
The Newspaper

More by The Newspaper

Join the conversation
4 of 51 comments
  • "scarey" "scarey" on Oct 13, 2011

    OK, then a SIMPLE question. If you and I are required by the government to carry liability insurance, why not a government agency whose employees have occasion to joyride...er... transport cars entrusted to their care ? Or should I cancel my insurance and just say "shit happens" if I happen to stomp on the gas pedal...er...be distracted by driving a car way beyond my abilities ?

    • See 1 previous
    • Ihatetrees Ihatetrees on Oct 13, 2011

      @Morea Sovereign immunity is a sound concept. Period. That said, what can be done when those entrusted with recovered stolen property are unprofessional ass-hats? Evidently nothing. Guns, badges, and the fed's civil service union protection racket are the real issues here. As a NY resident, I think few local NY Police Departments could get away with wrecking an exotic car or any other $500K asset. At least not without those involved getting suspended. Yet no discipline or consequence for the feds in this case. The Federal Nomenklatura are indeed special.

  • Advance_92 Advance_92 on Oct 14, 2011

    I do hope they don't let 'Agent Dietrich' near the wheel of another car, at the least.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.