EMILY SCHMALL, Associated Press
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The family of a Texas teenager who killed four people in a drunken-driving wreck has agreed to pay more than $2 million to the family of a boy who was paralyzed in the accident, according to court documents detailing the first approved settlement in the case.
The liability insurer of Ethan Couch’s parents agreed to pay more than $1 million in cash and the rest in annuities to a trust established for Sergio E. Molina, who was among 12 people injured in the wreck last year near Fort Worth.
Couch’s case drew national attention after his attorneys argued that his wealthy parents coddled the then-16-year-old into a sense of irresponsibility, which one witness termed “affluenza.” He was sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to a rehab facility.
Molina, who was riding in the back of Couch’s pickup when it flipped, can now only smile and blink, according to his parents. He has been in the hospital since the June accident.
His older brother, Alexander Lemus, said his family was disappointed in the settlement.
“We’re not happy about it, but we just have to take what we got and strive for better days,” he said Tuesday.
Along with the cash payment, the Couches’ insurer will buy two annuities to make monthly payments of $1,515 and $1,837 to the trust starting in July, and another annuity to cover attorneys’ fees, according to Tarrant County court documents.
Molina was in the bed of Couch’s Ford F-350 truck on June 15, 2013, when Couch swerved and hit a stranded motorist and three people who had stopped to help her. All four were killed.
The pickup also rammed a parked car, sending it into another car traveling in the opposite lane, before the truck rolled over and smashed into a tree. Molina was tossed out and landed on his head.
Molina’s parents sued Couch and his parents three months later, saying in a petition to the court that Molina’s medical expenses had exceeded $600,000 and that lifetime care could cost them more than $10 million.
Five other families of the injured or killed also have settled with the Couches, pending court approval. Details of those settlements haven’t been released. One family is seeking a jury trial.
Randy Nelson, the attorney representing Couch’s parents, Fred and Tonya Couch, declined comment to The Associated Press on Tuesday.