Fort Worth

Couch family settles last suit in fatal wreck

Ethan Couch in court in 2013
Ethan Couch in court in 2013

A family that originally sought a civil jury trial has agreed to settle the final lawsuit against the parents of Ethan Couch, the teen sentenced to probation almost two years ago after a drunken-driving wreck that killed four people.

The parents of Lucas McConnell, who was injured in the wreck, agreed to accept more than $35,000 for their attorneys. Also, the Couch family’s insurers will be responsible for paying more than $60,000 that will be reserved for college expenses for Lucas McConnell.

“If [Lucas] receives a full scholarship, which might happen because he is an exceptional student, the money is his,” Todd Clement, the McConnells’ attorney, said Friday night.

On Friday, state District Judge R.H. Wallace signed an order releasing the Couch family from further liability, Tarrant County district clerk’s records show.

In March 2014, the McConnells called a news conference to say they would not accept a settlement, as other families did, and were seeking a jury trial because Couch’s family had not been held accountable.

Clement declined to comment further Friday night about the outcome of the case.

Ethan Couch, then 16, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and ordered into intensive therapy for driving drunk and causing a crash that killed four people and injured 12 on the night of June 15, 2013.

Brian Jennings, 41, a youth minister at Alsbury Baptist Church in Burleson, had stopped to help a motorist with a disabled SUV on Burleson Retta Road. Lucas McConnell was a passenger in Jennings’ car.

Couch was driving a Ford F350 when he clipped the SUV and then struck several people. Then the pickup hit Jennings’ vehicle.

Those who died were Jennings; Breanna Mitchell, 24, the driver of the disabled SUV; and mother and daughter, Hollie Boyles, 52, and Shelby Boyles, 21, who had come outside their house to see if they could help.

The McConnells sued Ethan Couch, now 18, his father, Fred Couch, and his mother, Tonya Couch, as well as their business, Cleburne Sheet Metal.

The Couches were sued by at least six other families and settled with all.

According to WFAA, the ABC news magazine 20/20 will air depositions taken from the Couch family for the McConnells’ lawsuit next Friday. 20/20 also interviewed psychologist Dick Miller, who coined the phrase affluenza, which became a buzzword after Ethan Couch’s trial.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3