Fort Worth

March 17, 2014

Lawyer says settlements ‘close’ in claims against Ethan Couch, family

The Couch family’s lawyer declined to discuss specifics in the lawsuit Monday. “What I could say is, on behalf of the Couch family, we are trying to resolve these claims as expeditiously and as fairly as possible for all concerned,” attorney Randy A. Nelson said. “And, we’re close.”

Civil claims for damages leveled against Ethan Couch and his parents for the deaths of four people near Burleson last summer are “close” to being finalized, the family’s lawyer said late Monday.

Randy A. Nelson of Dallas, the attorney who was reached by phone, declined to discuss specifics in the lawsuit.

“What I could say is, on behalf of the Couch family, we are trying to resolve these claims as expeditiously and as fairly as possible for all concerned,” he said. “And we’re close.”

Nelson, however, said he did not want to say anything more because he was concerned his comments could worsen the tragedy.

In December, Ethan Couch was sentenced to 10 years’ probation on four counts of intoxication manslaughter.

That trial sparked a national controversy over whether an affluent white teen should have gotten probation instead of jail time. Couch was described in testimony as being from a rich, dysfunctional family. A psychologist said he was a victim of “affluenza,” a mental state of reckless or irresponsible behavior brought on by wealth.

According to evidence presented in the trial, Couch was extremely drunk and speeding down Burleson-Retta Road in southern Tarrant County in an F-350 pickup with seven teenage passengers when he veered off the road. The truck clipped an SUV and smashed into its driver and three other people.

Killed were Breanna Mitchell, 24, of Lillian, whose SUV had broken down; Brian Jennings, a youth minister at a Burleson church who had stopped to help; and Hollie Boyles, 52, and her daughter, Shelby Boyles, 21, who had come from their house nearby to help.

Six civil lawsuits were filed against Couch, his parents, Fred and Tonya Couch, and the family’s company, Cleburne Metal Works. In January, the lawsuits were consolidated and transferred to 96th state District Court, presided over by Judge R. H. Wallace.

Some of the plaintiffs are teenagers who were injured in the wreck.

Court documents that can viewed online show that settlements are in the works.

For example, an order of “dismissal with prejudice” was filed for Eric Boyles, husband to Hollie Boyles and father to Shelby Boyles.

A similar document has been filed for Marla J. Mitchell, mother of Breanna Mitchell.

Both documents contain language that states, “The parties have reached a final settlement of any and all claims Plaintiffs have or could have brought against Defendants. Accordingly, the parties respectfully ask the Court to dismiss with prejudice all claims or causes of action brought by Plaintiffs in this lawsuit.”

Nelson on Monday evening indicated that there is still more work to be done on the case. He noted that any settlements involving plaintiffs who are minors must be approved by the judge, while those involving adults do not.

This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.

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