Jamie Marshall thought it would be a fun Friday night when she and her friends gathered in a limo to go to a haunted hayride last October.
“We thought it would be a good way to avoid drinking and driving,” Marshall said.
What Marshall didn’t know was that Ansari’s Limousine didn’t have a permit for a limousine service and the driver wasn’t legally qualified to drive one for a business.
That night the stretch Chrysler limo was hit by two cars after the driver backed onto a busy highway.
Eight of the 10 passengers were injured Oct. 17, two seriously. Marshall suffered a gash to her right leg that required surgery. Upon crawling out a broken window to escape the vehicle, the 26-year-old Chanhassen resident suffered a deep cut to her right arm that required stitches.
Now Marshall and the other injured passengers are caught up in a dispute with the insurance company for the Eagan-based limo operator over who should pay the medical bills, which so far are estimated at $100,000. Lancer Insurance has refused to pay the no-fault medical and wage loss benefits claiming the limo was provided free of charge and wasn’t on business.
“I don’t understand how they claim they are not at fault,” Marshall said. “I just want my medical bills paid.”
Attorney Paul Otten, who is representing the injured passengers, claims the group rented the car for $300.
“No fault benefits are supposed to be simple and automatic,” he said.
The two parties also disagree on who was at fault for the crash, which is still under investigation by the Minnesota State Patrol.
Representatives from Lancer Insurance declined to comment on the case. Calls to attorney Brian Woods, who is representing Lancer and Ansari’s Limousine, were not returned in time for publication.
Ramsey Ansari, who owns Ansari Limousine, also did not return calls. His limo company is listed at the same address as Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill and Lounge in Eagan.
Otten said the party was organized by Patrick Boran, a friend of Ramsey Ansari’s. Boran didn’t return calls for comment. Part of the group met at Boran’s Eagan home where the limo picked them up. After picking up the rest of the party, the limo dropped the group off at a restaurant for dinner and drinks. They then headed to the Haunting Experience on Highway 61 in Cottage Grove.
Marshall and other passengers said Boran showed them a text message indicating the charge for the limo and told the group they could smoke in the car if they pay another $100. They also knew they were supposed to tip the driver, Marshall said.
As the limo pulled into the parking lot of the haunted house, the car bottomed out. According to the State Patrol incident report, the driver backed up to make the turn at a different angle. The limo was across the northbound lanes of Highway 61 when it was hit by two cars.
Limo operators in Minnesota are licensed and regulated by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Ansari’s permit was suspended on Oct. 17, 2011, for failure to maintain insurance coverage, according to MnDOT records. It was revoked for the same reason on Dec. 16, 2011.
Limousine operators are responsible for ensuring their drivers are qualified. Driver qualifications include a maintaining a driver’s license that hasn’t been revoked, canceled or suspended in the past three years.
Randy Wayne Smith, who was driving the limo that night, had his driver’s license revoked in March 2014 for failure to provide proof of insurance. His license was reinstated in April, according to Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services.
Otten said he has handled hundreds of personal injury cases and this is the first time he has encountered a problem collecting an insurance claim.
“This is a blatant attempt to escape any responsibility for an accident that seriously injured young people,” Otten said. “Young people who believed they were doing the safe thing by hiring a limousine for their night out, rather than drink and drive.”