U.S. Refuses to Pay Michigan Insurer for Ferrari Wrecked by FBI Agent

By Ed White | May 24, 2011

The U.S. Justice Department has refused to pay $750,000 to a Michigan insurance company for a Ferrari that was wrecked in Kentucky while driven by an FBI agent.

In a recent response to a lawsuit in Detroit, the Justice Department insisted it’s immune to tort claims when certain goods are in the hands of law enforcement. The government refused to release most documents related to the crash.

The rare Ferrari F50 was stolen in 2003 from a dealer in Rosemont, Pa., and discovered five years later in Kentucky. The FBI kept it in Lexington, Ky., as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

In May 2009, the Ferrari was being moved from a garage. Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson said he was invited to a “short ride” by FBI agent Fred Kingston.

“Just a few seconds after we left the parking lot, we went around a curve and the rear of the car began sliding,” Thompson said in an email released to Motors Insurance Co., the dealer’s insurer.

“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,” Thompson said.

He was not hurt but Kingston needed a few stitches for a cut on his head.

Motors Insurance told the government that the 1995 Ferrari, one of only 50 in the U.S., suffered substantial damage and is a “total loss.”

“At heart, it is a race vehicle” and is not built like a typical car, truck or SUV, Motors Insurance said in a claim for payment, partly explaining why it sought $750,000.

The Southfield, Mich.-based company filed a lawsuit in March after the Justice Department refused to pay. Separately, Motors Insurance has filed a lawsuit to try to get records about the incident through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The government has been secretive, saying most records are exempt. It has only released Thompson’s email.

“We don’t really know what happened. We’ve asked for a lot of information,” Motors Insurance attorney Richard Kraus said in an interview this week.

A judge has set a June 13 hearing in the case.

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