Lawsuit filed in Ohio Bus Crash that Killed 5 Targets Insurers

November 29, 2007

Attorneys want a federal court to determine whether members of a university baseball team involved in a deadly bus crash earlier this year are entitled to insurance money.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Bluffton University’s players and coaches seeks to confirm the bus driver and the busing company were covered in the March accident.

A charter bus carrying the team to spring training in Florida plunged off an overpass in Atlanta early on March 2. Five students from the Mennonite school and the bus driver and his wife were killed. Twenty-eight other people were injured.

The Oct. 31 filing in U.S. District Court said the driver and bus company were insured under three policies issued to the university and that the victims are entitled to coverage for injuries.

According to the lawsuit, the insurance companies Connecticut-based Hartford Fire Insurance Co., New Jersey-based American Alternative Insurance Corp. and New Jersey-based Federal Insurance Co. have refused to acknowledge the driver and bus company were covered under the policies, which total $21 million.

Representatives of all three insurers said they could not comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is necessary so the victims can clarify the amount of coverage before they file any individual claims, said Steve Collier, an attorney for the family of David Betts, one of the players who died.

John Smalley, an attorney representing the two coaches, said he has talked with two of the insurance companies and found there was a disagreement about whether the policies covered the driver.

“Hopefully, this is the best way to get this closed without delay and litigation,” he said.

This is the second lawsuit filed since the bus crash.

The mother of one of the players killed, Tyler Williams, filed a lawsuit in September against the university, the company that made the bus, the city of Atlanta and the company that provided the bus and driver for the team. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Attorneys also have notified the state of Georgia that they may sue the state on behalf of 16 people injured or killed in the crash.

Investigators have said the bus driver apparently mistook an exit ramp for a highway lane, but the National Transportation Safety Board has not made any finding on the crash’s cause. The board’s final accident report is expected next spring, the NTSB has said.

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