‘Affluenza’ case: family of Texas boy hurt in wreck continues suit


NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

BURLESON, Texas (AP) — The parents of a boy injured in a North Texas wreck that killed four other people said Wednesday that they will not settle with the teenage drunken driver, whose “affluenza” defense and probation sentence garnered nationwide attention.

Lucas McConnell, 13, spoke briefly to reporters Wednesday, flanked by his parents and his attorney.

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He described how he had always been taught that things in life happen for a reason.

“I know everyone always says, ‘Things always happen for a reason,’ but I haven’t really seen the reason yet, and I know I would like to, and I know people around me would like to,” Lucas said.

Lucas’ family has filed one of several lawsuits against the family of Ethan Couch, the Burleson teenager who was 16 when he plowed an SUV into a crowd of people helping a driver with a disabled vehicle. His case and sentence drew national attention due to a defense expert’s testimony that Couch’s parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility — a condition the expert called “affluenza.”

Todd Clement, who is representing the McConnell family, said he intended to seek testimony from Couch and his parents, Fred and Tonya Couch, and move the case to trial.

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“The McConnells do not believe that Fred, Tonya and Ethan Couch have had to answer the hard questions about Ethan Couch’s history of dangerous and criminal behavior, hard questions about the lack of supervision from the parents … and the hard questions as to what actually happened that night,” Clement said.

An attorney for the Couch family did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Four people were killed in the crash, including Brian Jennings, a local youth pastor who had pulled over to help the driver. Lucas and a friend were in the back seat of Jennings’ vehicle.

Lucas suffered a back injury and continues to receive bi-weekly counseling sessions, Clement said.

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Authorities said they found traces of Valium in Ethan Couch’s blood, as well as a blood-alcohol level that was three times the legal limit for a driver 21 or older. Couch admitted his involvement in the crash and was given 10 years’ probation by a Fort Worth juvenile judge — a sentence that outraged prosecutors pushing for prison time and Couch’s victims.

Relatives of all four people killed have agreed to settlements with the Couch family, according to their attorneys and court records. No settlements have been entered into court records for Sergio Molina and Solaiman Mohmand, two boys who were riding in the bed of Couch’s pickup truck and were severely injured.

While Clement didn’t rule out a settlement for the McConnell family, he said he wanted a trial for “accountability and responsibility.”