Family faces another lawsuit from fatal wreck

01/01/2014 7:55 PM

05/17/2014 9:06 AM

The parents of a teenager who was seriously injured in June in a fatal wreck caused by a teen who was drunk is suing the young driver and his parents.

The family of Isaiah McLaughlin, who was a passenger in a pickup driven by Burleson youth minister Brian Jennings, filed suit in Tarrant County Civil Court this week.

It is the sixth lawsuit filed against Ethan Couch, 16, and his parents, Frederick and Tanya Couch.

Last month, Couch was sentenced in Tarrant County juvenile court to 10 years probation and intensive therapy after he admitted to causing the wreck.

The Star-Telegram usually does not name teenage defendants, but his name and face have been made public in other media reports.

The suit also names the family business, Cleburne Metal Works.

The McLaughlins’ suit did not provide details about Isaiah McLaughlin’s injuries but said they were “serious.”

Timothy and Priscilla McLaughlin, Isaiah’s parents, are seeking damages from the Couch family, but the suit did not specify an amount.

The wreck

Jennings had stopped to help a stranded motorist shortly after leaving his son’s graduation party on June 15. McLaughlin was a passenger in the truck along with another youth, Lucas McConnell, whose parents are also suing Couch and his family.

Couch, whose blood alcohol level was 0.24 — more than three times the legal limit — was driving an F350 pickup owned by his father’s company. Seven other teens were riding in the pickup, two in the bed.

About 11:45 p.m., in the 1500 block of Burleson-Retta Road, Couch’s speeding pickup left the road, clipped a stranded sport utility vehicle and smashed into the SUV’s driver and three people who were trying to help her.

The impact flung the four people 50 to 60 yards, authorities reported. In addition to Jennings, those killed were the SUV driver, Breanna Mitchell, 24, of Lillian; and Hollie Boyles, 52, and her daughter, Shelby Boyles, 21, who had come from their house nearby to help.

Couch’s pickup then hit Jennings’ parked Silverado pickup with the two boys inside. The red pickup went airborne, flipped and crashed into a tree.

On Dec. 10, Couch was sentenced by state district Judge Jean Boyd to 10 years probation and intensive therapy after he admitted responsibility (the juvenile equivalent to a plea of guilty) to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury.

Boyd’s sentencing of Couch went viral, and during testimony Couch was described as a spoiled teenager from a wealthy but dysfunctional family. During testimony, a psychologist described Couch as a victim of “affluenza,” a mental state of reckless or irresponsible behavior brought on by wealth.

Jerry Orth, an attorney representing the McLaughlins, could not be reached to comment Tuesday.

Randy Nelson, an attorney representing the Couch family, did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

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