GALVESTON, Texas (CN) - A jury will decide whether a Texas man lied about an errant pelican to explain why he filed a $2 million insurance claim on the Bugatti Veyron he plowed into a lagoon.
Lloyd Gillespie allegedly provided Andy House, of Lufkin, a $1 million interest-free loan in 2009 to buy a 2006 Bugatti Veyron, the most expensive and fastest production line car in the world.
House obtained collector-vehicle insurance on the car from Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company and listed Gillespie as a loss payee. Within weeks, however, Philadelphia allegedly received a $2 million claim from House.
In a 2010 federal complaint against Gillespie and House, Philadelphia says its investigation proved House intentionally drove his car into a Galveston lagoon to destroy it and get a big payout. It also claimed that the accident occurred outside the scope of a collector vehicle since House put over 1,200 miles on the Bugatti during the three weeks he owned it, using it for errands, business trips and the like.
House told Philadelphia that he had swerved to avoid hitting a pelican while driving back from Galveston. He allegedly said he took his eyes off the road to pick up a dropped cellphone, then eyed the bird and drove off the road.
"The crash was widely reported in the press due to the nature of the vehicle involved as well as having been caught on film by a person driving next to the Bugatti at the time of the crash and subsequently posted to www.youtube.com," according to the complaint.
Philadelphia says it interviewed the man who made the YouTube video, and that witness said he didn't see a pelican and didn't notice House drop his cellphone.
On top of that, there were no skid marks and "reports from witnesses at the scene stated that Mr. House did not appear overly upset at the loss of the vehicle," Philadelphia claims.
"It was also reported that Mr. House left the vehicle running for over fifteen minutes while it was submerged until it died on its own causing unnecessary damage to the vehicle's engine," according to the complaint. "Defendant House confirmed this fact and attributed leaving the vehicle running because he was being bitten by mosquitoes around the vehicle."
To add to its point, Philadelphia said a "confidential informant stated that Mr. House offered to pay him money to steal the car and burn it making the disappearance of the vehicle appear to be a theft so that Mr. House could obtain the insurance money."
"However, apparently Mr. House instead drove the car into the lagoon without the confidential informant's assistance," the complaint continues.
"Once the confidential informant confronted Mr. House, Mr. House offered to pay the confidential informant a portion of the insurance proceeds once recovered to remain silent during the investigation.
"The confidential informant indicated that he believed Mr. House and Mr. Gillespie acted in coordination in this matter."
Gillespie and Philadelphia each moved for summary judgment, but U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner rejected both maneuvers in what he called "an admittedly abstentious opinion and order" last week.
"In the humble opinion of this court, this case involves quizzical factual circumstances that compel credibility determinations which this court may not make at the summary judgment stage," Froeschner wrote Tuesday. "That function is for the jury that both Gillespie and Philadelphia have demanded."
The 25-second recording of the Bugatti Veyron meeting its watery demise has more than 2.5 million views on YouTube.
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