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Insurance companies dispute coverage in deadly crash

11/27/2007

TOLEDO, Ohio -- 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.