MOORHEAD - The father of two teens killed in a crash on their way to a basketball tournament says he's suing their school, their coach and other parties not for the money but to better understand what led to their deaths.
"I don't need any more money," Ray Kvalvog said Tuesday, Dec. 20. "I need the truth."
If Kvalvog is awarded money in the wrongful death suit, he says, he plans to donate it to charity or maybe even give it back to Park Christian, the Moorhead private school his sons attended.
Kvalvog said he's pleaded with school officials to meet with him to discuss the crash but has been turned down. "I need answers as to exactly what happened," he said. "If nobody talks, I can't get those answers, and that's why I've sued them."
The fatal crash happened June 23, 2015, on Interstate 94 near Dalton, Minn. Zach Kvalvog, 18, was driving his 14-year-old brother, Connor, and two teammates to the tournament in Wisconsin.
A semi veered into Zach Kvalvog's lane, causing him to swerve out of the way and overcorrect, a Minnesota State Patrol crash report said. The Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck Zach Kvalvog was driving rolled into the median and ended up on the interstate's westbound lanes.
The brothers died in the crash. Passengers Mark Schwandt and Jimmy Morton were hospitalized, but they recovered. The suit says the crash was the result of carelessness and negligence of the "phantom semi," which left the scene.
Ray Kvalvog said varsity boys basketball coach Josh Lee was driving another vehicle nearby when the crash occurred. The father said he wants to talk with the school about why the coach's account of the crash doesn't jibe with the patrol's report, which drew from witness accounts and the pickup truck's data recorder.
"If we can get some answers, maybe something like this could be avoided in the future," Ray Kvalvog said.
The suit alleges that Park Christian and Lee were negligent in letting Zach Kvalvog drive to the tournament. The attorney for the coach and school, Timothy Carrigan of Minneapolis, declined to comment on the allegations. Principal Chris Nellermoe said school employees, including Lee, have been advised not to discuss the case.
Asked why he or another parent did not drive to the tournament, Ray Kvalvog said he had nothing to do with the planning of the trip and that the coach organized transportation.
"There was to be other modes of transportation and those were discussed, but things got changed kind of last minute," he said. "This was set up by the school, set up by Josh Lee and nobody else."
Along with the school and coach, the other defendants named in the suit are the maker of the pickup truck, FCA US, aka Chrysler Group, and the family's auto insurance provider, Secura Insurance.
The suit claims FCA neglected to warn consumers about the faulty steering in the pickup truck and that the company failed to develop an adequate fix for the problem. Because Chrysler has not inspected the wrecked truck, Ray Kvalvog said, suing was the only way to determine whether the faulty steering was a factor in the crash.
The suit says the Secura insurance policy that covered Ray Kvalvog's sons included uninsured motorist coverage with limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per crash. The suit alleges Secura has refused to pay the uninsured motorist benefits Ray Kvalvog believes he's owed.
However, Ray Kvalvog said he actually has no issue with Secura but that the firm had to be included in the suit as a legal formality.
Each defendant has filed a response to the suit, denying its claims. In their responses, the school and coach, the automaker and the insurance company all allege that Zach Kvalvog may have been at fault in the crash.
Phone messages left for Secura's attorney, William Harrie of Fargo, and FCA's attorney, Mickey Greene of Minneapolis, were not returned.
On Friday, Dec. 16, Clay County District Court Judge Galen Vaa was assigned the case, which was filed late last month.