Insurer seeks help splitting funds

Expects claims from church van crash; has $1 million limit
Feb. 19, 2013 @ 11:47 PM

The insurance company for Cedar Grove Baptist Church is asking a Sevier County judge to help it determine how to split a $1 million policy among the victims of the wreck that left two church members dead and several more injured.

Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company filed a complaint for interpleader and declaratory relief in Sevier County Circuit Court — meaning it is asking the court to help it decide how to split the policy up to its $1 million limit.

“If it is determined that the policy of insurance issued by SMCIC is applicable to said accident, SMCIC anticipates that multiple claims could be made under the policy by numerous individuals and that the aggregate of said claims could exceed the monetary limits of coverage under the policy terms.

“In an effort to act in fairness and good faith with all potential claimants, SMCIC now files this interpleader action in order to properly distribute the policy proceeds to the appropriate parties.”

The filing stems from the Sept. 16, 2012, wreck on Chapman Highway, when Sevier County Sheriff’s deputies believe a Seymour man who was driving while intoxicated collided with the van carrying members of the youth group back to the church.

The fiery collision took the lives of the driver, Jeffrey Trussell, and Courteney Kaliszewski, a 16-year-old student at Seymour High School. There were 11 more people in the van, including four who the insurance company states were under the age of 14.

The church had an uninsured driver policy through SMCIC, and is expecting claims from the victims based on that policy.

The insurer is arguing that “under no circumstances may its liability under the subject policy exceed ($1 million).”

The families of Trussell and Kaliszewski have filed a complaint against Schaeffer; their attorneys say they hope the claim will help prevent him from ever legally driving again.

He remains in the Sevier County Jail, where he’s being held in lieu of $2 million bond. He faces charges including two counts of vehicular homicide, multiple counts of reckless aggravated assault and DUI. Authorities believe he was high on bath salts when he collided with the van.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com