The parents of a 12-year-old boy killed in a car crash in December have sued a teenager who, at the time of the accident, was 14 and illegally driving the car.
Randi and Kent Downhour filed the wrongful death lawsuit in St. Joseph Superior Court, seeking damages from John Sult, who was driving a sport utility vehicle Dec. 10 when it veered off Quince Road, rolled several times, and killed Corey Downhour, who was in the back seat.
Corey was a seventh-grader at Greene Intermediate School. He was not wearing a seatbelt, police said.
The lawsuit alleges that John was driving without a license and at an unsafe speed.
"As a result of his negligence, (John) lost control of the vehicle and crashed into an embankment," the lawsuit reads.
But questions remain about who owned the vehicle, how John got the keys, and the circumstances leading up to the accident.
The Downhours filed the lawsuit to try to learn exactly what happened that night, said the Downhours' attorney, Michael Anderson.
"No one really knows the truth," Anderson said. "There's so many different stories about what happened that evening."
Anderson said the Downhours are not privy to information from the police investigation into the crash, since it is still an active case. It remains under review by the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's office.
Filing a lawsuit allows the parents to subpoena witnesses and use the power of the court to get answers.
"We met a brick wall and sometimes a lawsuit is the only way to get over it," Anderson said.
Police reported that John may have been given permission to drive the vehicle by a 17-year-old who was in possession of it. That person's name was not released, and he has not been charged, according to the prosecutor's office.
Corey, John and a female 13-year-old passenger had been playing video games at Corey's family home on Windsor Road the night of the accident, police said. At some point, at least one -- if not all of them -- asked the 17-year-old if they could drive the vehicle, police said.
Police said it was John's first time ever driving a vehicle. John reportedly told police he lost control on an icy road, according to past Tribune reports.
The Downhours declined to comment for this story. It was not clear from police whether they were home when the teens were playing video games and later got control of the SUV.
The lawsuit, filed April 11, states that John's "careless and negligent conduct" caused the Downhours to incur funeral and burial expenses, loss of their child's love and companionship, loss of their child's services, psychiatric counseling, and attorney fees.