Families of 2 'affluenza' case victims settle civil suits

Breanna Mitchell

Credit: Courtesy

Breanna Mitchell, 24, was one of the victims of the fatal car crash in southern Tarrant County on June 16, 2013.




Posted on March 18, 2014 at 4:12 PM

The families of a woman who was killed and a teen who was injured in a prominent drunk driving case last year have reached settlements in civil lawsuits against the driver's family.

The family of Ethan Couch and his father's Cleburne business 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.

In June 2013, then-16-year-old Couch was speeding in his father's company truck when he struck and killed four pedestrians, including Breanna Mitchell, Hollie and Shelby Boyles, and youth pastor Brian Jennings. 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 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.