Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fabulous Coach Lines had $5M insurance limit

Back during a 2012 interview with CNN Reporter George Howell, Fabulous Coach Lines President Ray Land defended his business’ actions on the day that FAMU drum major Robert Champion lost his life aboard a vehicle owned by the company. Champion died from injuries he suffered during a 2011 hazing ritual that took place on a Fabulous Coach Lines bus in Orlando, Florida. The Champion family later filed a civil law suit against the company.

“To own and operate a fleet of buses like this, Fabulous Coach Lines maintains a high insurance limit,” Howell reported. “And Ray Land believes that is the reason his business is being targeted. He believes the lawsuit is misguided.”

It now looks like the Champions might have been successful in getting a piece of that “high insurance limit.” Last week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Champions had reached a settlement with the bus company. The Champions have declined to release details about the agreement.

According to the records of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Fabulous Coach Lines had a $5 million insurance limit from June 30, 2011 through January 27, 2012. Champion died on November 19, 2011.

The original negligence and wrongful death that Champion’s parents filed against the company on February 13, 2012 asked for more than $15,000 in damages. Ray Land Productions (which owned Fabulous Coach Lines) and driver Wendy Mellette were named as defendants. Land later sold the Fabulous Coach Lines charter to another transportation business in 2013.

A September 10 article in the Orlando Sentinel reported that: “The Champions’ lawsuit originally accused the bus driver of standing guard during the hazing and forcing the drum major onto the bus when he tried to leave — allegations that were not supported by the Orange County sheriff's investigation. Mellette denied witnessing hazing rituals that had occurred on her vehicle.”

The Champions have not explained how Mellette allegedly “forced” the victim back on board the bus. Robert Champion weighed 235 pounds and was more than six feet tall. State prosecutors still have not announced any plans to charge Mellette with false imprisonment or any other crime related to Champion’s death.

A 2012 article in the Orlando Sentinel stated that Champion family attorney Christopher Chestnut “said the allegations against Fabulous Coach Lines were based on eyewitness accounts and other information from about 30 people, including several former bus drivers and about 20 students. He also interviewed two students who went through the hazing ritual that night on Bus C.”

But Keon Hollis, a former FAMU drum major who informed Orange County detectives that he and Champion both voluntarily submitted to the “Crossing Bus C” hazing process, told ESPN that only students were around when they went through the violent ritual.

“Any idea where the driver was?” ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn asked him.

“No,” Hollis said.

NOTE: To access the full USDOT insurance records for Fabulous Coach Lines, click the Licensing and Insurance Public link here. Under the “Choose Menu Option” dropdown box, select “Carrier Search.” Then, enter USDOT #1257616 or search for “Fabulous Coach Lines” (DBA Name) in Florida (State).

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