'Affluenza' Driver's Family Settle Civil Suits

     FORT WORTH (CN) - The families of several motorists killed or injured by drunken teenager have settled their civil lawsuits against the so-called "affluenza" driver's family.
     Ethan Couch, 16, made headlinesheadlines in December when he received a sentence of probation and therapy by Tarrant County Juvenile Judge Jane Boyd. He faced up to 20 years in state prison for a June 15 collision in south Fort Worth he caused by speeding his car over a crowd of people.
     Four people died, including mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell. Several others were seriously injured. Couch was driving 70 mph in a 40 mph zone, and his blood alcohol content was 0.24 at the time of the wreck, three times the legal limit of .08 for an adult, Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said.
     It is illegal for a minor to drive with any alcohol in his system.
     Defense psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller testified at trial that Couch himself was a victim of "affluenza," seeing no rational link between behavior and consequences because his family felt wealth bought privilege.
     Couch's parents gave him "freedoms no young person should have," Miller testified.
     That couple, Fred and Tonya Couch, and the family business, Cleburne Sheet Metal, soon faced six, separate civil lawsuits from Couch's victims and their families.
     Ethan had been driving a company truck at the time of the crash, the families claimed.
     Isaiah McLaughlin was one of the seriously injured. His family settled their lawsuit, according to an agreed final judgment and approval of minor settlement signed on March 14. Under the terms of the agreement, McLaughlin will be paid over $37,000 by the defendants' insurer and will be paid an additional $142,000 over 10 years.
     The Boyles and Mitchell families meanwhile have "finalized" their settlements, Fox-affiliate KDFW reported Monday evening.
     Defense attorney Randy Nelson of Dallas told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that they are "close" to settling the claims against the Couch family.
     "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 told the newspaper Monday.