Insurer seeks to avoid claims from wedding accident

A Michigan insurance company is seeking to avoid paying for any claims made by Mavris Arts & Event Center in Indianapolis involving a high-profile fatal wedding-shuttle accident in June.

Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Co., based near Saginaw, this week asked the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana to relieve it from paying claims related to the case, including those in a lawsuit filed by members of the wedding party. 

John Mavris, owner of the downtown events center at 121 S. East St., said his business won't suffer even if the insurer doesn't have to pay because he has insurance coverage from "several" other companies.

"I'm not concerned at all," Mavris said. He declined to comment further on the case.

Frankenmuth is asking a federal judge to declare that it doesn't have to cover the Mavris Center for any judgements that might result from a lawsuit filed in January by Tom and Lauren Hanley and the rest of their wedding party. The wedding-day shuttle accident, which killed their 29-year-old friend, James Douglas, made national headlines.

The party was en route from the Mavris the afternoon of June 5 for a photo shoot before the ceremony. The driver, headed west on South Street, ran a red light at Delaware Street and collided with an SUV, according to the lawsuit.

The wedding party claims Mavris was negligent because it supplied a shuttle built to hold 14 people when 16 people, including the driver, were on board. Lauren Hanley said she ordered a limo large enough for 18 people, but learned shortly before the wedding day that it wasn't available.

Most of the wedding party sat on makeshift benches without seatbelts, while one person stood near the driver and another crouched in the doorwell, according to the wedding party's suit. The suit claims the driver, Jerry Lowery, should have had a commercial driver's license, not just a chauffer's license.

Every member of the wedding party was injured. The Hanleys were married later that day at Methodist Hospital in a conference room near the emergency room. Their reception at the Mavris was turned into a dinner and prayer service for Douglas.

The Mavris bought Frankenmuth insurance policies for commercial general liability, garage coverage, umbrella coverage and business auto coverage. Frankenmuth claims none of those policies apply because the shuttle was owned by John Mavris himself, not one of his business entities.

The wedding party's suit against Mavris doesn't specify the amount of damages sought.


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