The perils associated with drinking and driving should be well known by all adults and especially by those who are parents. At least, I hope I am correct about the level of adult awareness. The consequences of an alcohol-related vehicle crash are always bad. The parents of a teenager who was seriously injured in June in a fatal wreck caused by a teenager who was drunk and driving have filed suit against the young driver and his parents. The family of Isaiah McLaughlin, who was a passenger in a pickup driven by Brian Jennings, a youth minister, filed suit in Tarrant County Civil Court.  This is the sixth lawsuit filed against Ethan Couch and his parents, Frederick and Tanya Couch.

In December, 16-year-old Ethan Couch admitted to causing the wreck and was sentenced to 10 years probation and intensive therapy. The civil lawsuit also names the family business, Cleburne Metal Works, as a Defendant. Isaiah McLaughlin’s injuries were described in the complaint as being “serious.”  Timothy and Priscilla McLaughlin, Isaiah’s parents, are seeking damages from the Defendants.

Brian Jennings had stopped to help a stranded motorist shortly after leaving his son’s graduation party on June 15. Isaiah McLaughlin was a passenger in the truck along with another youth, Lucas McConnell, whose parents have also sued Ethan Couch and his family. The teenager, whose blood alcohol level was 0.24 — more than three times the legal limit — was driving an F350 pickup owned by his father’s company. Seven other teenagers were riding in the pickup, two in the bed. About 11:45 p.m., Couch’s speeding pickup left the road, clipped a stranded sport utility vehicle and smashed into the SUV’s driver and three people who were trying to help her.

The impact threw the four people 50 to 60 yards, according to investigating officers. Couch’s pickup then hit the Jennings’ parked Silverado pickup with the two boys inside. The pickup went airborne, flipped and crashed into a tree. In addition to Jennings, the driver of the SUV, Breanna Mitchell, was killed, as were Hollie Boyles, and her daughter, Shelby Boyles, who had come from their house nearby to help.

Couch was sentenced to 10 years probation and intensive therapy after he admitted responsibility (the juvenile equivalent to a plea of guilty) to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. During sentencing of Couch, and during testimony, Couch was described as a spoiled teenager from a wealthy but dysfunctional family. During testimony, a psychologist described Couch as a victim of “affluenza,” a mental state of reckless or irresponsible behavior brought on by wealth. Gerry Orth, a lawyer with Orth, Walker & Orth, located in Ft. Worth, Texas, represents the McLaughlin family in this latest lawsuit.


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