Parents of 'affluenza' teen settle civil suit with victims' families

FORT WORTH, Texas — A civil suit filed against the parents of Ethan Couch is scheduled for a hearing Friday in a Fort Worth courtroom.

Couch was sentenced to 10 years' probation for killing four people while driving drunk. in June, 2013. All the victims sued Couch's parents, and Fred Couch's company, Cleburne Metal Works.

Ethan Couch, then 16, was driving a company pickup truck when he plowed into an accident scene near Burleson.

Friday's hearing is for the apportionment of funds for the family of youth pastor Brian Jennings, who was among those killed.

Meanwhile, the families of a woman who was killed and a teen who was injured in the widely-reported case have reached settlements in civil lawsuits against the driver's family.

The family of Ethan Couch and Cleburne Metal Works will pay Isaiah McLaughlin and his family a total of nearly $114,000 in the agreement.

The terms of the settlement with the family of Breanna Mitchell were not released.

Mitchell, Hollie and Shelby Boyles, and youth pastor Brian Jennings were among the dead. Couch's blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was 0.24, three times the limit for those of legal drinking age.

In all, six civil lawsuits related to the crash were filed against Couch's family and his father's business. The McLaughlin and Mitchell families were the first of those to reach settlements.

The night of the crash, Breanna Mitchell — who was headed home after a catering event at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth — stepped out of her car after a flat tire left her stranded on Burleson Retta Road. Hollie Boyles, 52, her daughter Shelby Boyles, 21, and Jennings, 43, walked to the scene to check on Mitchell.

All four were standing outside the car in a driveway when Couch struck them with his truck.

There were seven teen passengers in the pickup at the time of the crash. The vehicle hit several vehicles and flipped in the accident, causing injuries to some of the occupants. The families of three passengers filed civil suits against Couch's family and his father's business.

One of those teens, Sergio Molina, was thrown from the bed of the pickup truck. He is paralyzed, unable to communicate, and requires around-the-clock care.

Lucas McConnell was also injured in the crash and filed a civil suit.

Per the agreement with the McLaughlin family, Couch's family and Cleburne Metal Works will pay $37,540.55 through their liability insurer, plus semi-annual payments of $6,635.72 to Isaiah McLaughlin for five years beginning in 2019 totaling $66,357.20, and a $10,000 lump sum payment when McLaughlin turns 25.

The McLaughlin family has not commented on the extent of the injuries Isaiah suffered in the crash, beyond saying they were "severe."

Couch pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years of probation and two years of intensive therapy in a rehabilitation facility paid for by his family by Tarrant County juvenile court Judge Jean Boyd last December.

Couch's case gained national notoriety after a psychologist said his behavior was the result of "affluenza," because his family's wealth and dysfunction had shielded him from consequences of past mistakes.


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