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Case of the drowned million-dollar car to go to trial

Chris Paschenko / AP file

A wrecker driver attaches a towing cable to the Bugatti Veyron that was driven into the water in La Marque, Texas, on Nov. 11, 2009.

Remember the guy who drove that million-dollar car into a Texas swamp a couple of years ago? A jury will have to decide whether he was trying to scam an insurance company to double his money on it.

This video of the incident on YouTube has drawn more than 2.6 million people eager to watch Andy House, an auto dealer in Lufkin, Texas, drive the $1 million French-built Bugatti Veyron — one of only 300 ever made — into a lagoon in LaMarque, near Galveston, in November 2009:

A passing motorist shot video of the $1 million supercar plunging into the swamp. (Warning Offensive language in the commentary.)

Since then, the insurance company, Philadelphia Indemnity of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., has sued, claiming insurance fraud, and the federal magistrate's judge hearing the suit has decided he's not qualified to sort out the "quizzical factual circumstances" in the bizarre case.

The insurance company claims House borrowed $1 million from a friend to buy the car and then bought insurance on it as a collector's vehicle, valuing it at more than $2 million. It says he drove it into the swamp to collect the insurance, which was supposed to go to the friend who lent him the purchase money.

(That man, Lloyd Gillespie, is also a defendant in the suit, which you can read here in .pdf form.) 

House says he swerved off the road to avoid hitting a pelican, but the insurance company says there's no pelican in the video. Plus, it says it went to the scene and found no skid marks, and it further alleges that 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."

Both sides asked Judge John R. Froeschner to dismiss the case in their favor on Nov. 10, but he refused in an order filed last week (.pdf).

"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," he wrote.

No date was set for the trial.