Brown County courthouse

NEW ULM — The family of a man killed in a crash on Highway 14 two years ago is now suing the other driver involved as well as that driver’s employer.

Michael John Reinarts, 41, of New Ulm, died in a collision with Charles Elder, of Mankato, on April 4, 2018, near Courtland. Elder was driving a vehicle for the Minnesota Valley Action Council, a nonprofit that serves low-income residents.

Reinarts’ family filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Elder and MVAC last month in Brown County District Court. The lawsuit seeks financial damages. Proceedings have been put on hold during the pandemic.

The lawsuit claims Elder went into the wrong lane and caused the crash. The suit also claims MVAC is vicariously liable.

In a written response, the defendants deny Elder drove negligently.

The highway was covered with ice at the time of the crash, according to the State Patrol report. Elder was westbound in a pickup towing a trailer and Reinarts was westbound in a van when they collided, the report states.

Reinarts died at the scene. Elder and the passenger in Reinarts’ van were taken to New Ulm Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

The attorney representing the Reinarts family did not respond to an invitation to comment on the case. The attorney representing Elder and MVAC declined to comment.

The suit was filed by Reinarts’ father, Jeffrey Reinarts, as representative of his next of kin. Micheal Reinarts had a wife and three children and worked as an electrician, according to his obituary.

His mother, Iona, testified at the state Capitol last year seeking funding to expand the stretch of highway to four lanes. A funding plan was reached last month and construction is expected to begin next year.

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