DETROIT (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the wreck of a $750,000 Ferrari driven by an FBI agent, saying federal law grants immunity if property is being held by law enforcement.
The wreck of the rare 1995 F50 sports car was "certainly unfortunate," but the government cannot be sued in such a case, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said.
Motors Insurance, based in Southfield, Mich., believes an FBI agent and a prosecutor were out for a joyride when the agent lost control of the Ferrari in a Lexington, Ky., industrial park in 2009. The government has refused to pay for the car.
The car was stolen in Rosemont, Pa., in 2003, eventually recovered and then kept by the FBI in Kentucky as part of an investigation. The government has declined to reveal much about the incident. But in an email that was released to the insurance company, Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson said he was invited for a "short ride" before the Ferrari was to be moved from an impound garage.
The driver, FBI agent Fred Kingston, lost control and the car hit bushes and a small tree, Thompson said.
The insurance company claimed the Ferrari was not actually in custody because the insurer had granted permission for the government to hold the car. The judge disagreed.
"The government's purpose in holding the vehicle was not to create a status of either consent or punitive coercion. ... Rather, the object was to control and preserve relevant evidence," Cohn said in an 11-page decision on Sept. 27.
The insurance company's attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.