Brain-injured teen receives $2 million in ‘affluenza’ case settlement

Posted at 3:10 PM, May 07, 2014
By Dana Ford and Suzanne Presto


(CNN) — The family of a teen critically injured when another teen, Ethan Couch, drove drunk last year has reached a settlement of more than $2 million.

The case made national headlines after a witness claimed Couch was a victim of “affluenza” — the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the Texas boy.

For the crimes of driving drunk and causing a crash — which killed four people and critically injured two — Couch received no jail time. He was ordered to go to a lockdown treatment facility and sentenced to 10 years’ probation.

The settlement, reached this month, involves the case of Sergio Molina, who was riding in the back of Couch’s truck the night of the accident. He suffered a brain injury and can no longer speak, or move. He is considered minimally responsive.

“They told us that, basically, that’s as much as he’s going to rehabilitate,” Sergio’s brother, Alex Lemus, told CNN last year.

In the six months since the accident, which took place in June, Lemus said medical bills had already topped $1 million.

The family filed the lawsuit against the Couch family and the father’s company because Ethan was driving a company-owned truck.

The settlement includes a cash sum of more than $1 million, plus periodic payments, according to documents from the 96th District Court in Tarrant County. Most of the payment will be made by a liability insurer.

An attorney for the Molina family declined to comment.

Earlier this year, a lawyer representing Couch, who was 16 at the time of the wreck last June, lashed out at the news media for their focus on the use of “affluenza” to describe the boy’s privileged upbringing.

Of the two experts who testified in defense of the boy, only one used the word and he used it just once, attorney Reagan Wynn told CNN’s “New Day.”

“That term was not used by either of the lawyers that represented Mr. Couch, and it was not our defense, simply put,” said Wynn.

Last June, Hollie Boyles, and daughter, Shelby, left their home to help Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV had broken down. Brian Jennings, a youth pastor, was driving past and also stopped to help.

All four were killed when Couch’s pickup truck plowed into the pedestrians on a road in Burleson, south of Fort Worth. The vehicle also struck a parked car, which then slid into another vehicle headed in the opposite direction.

Two people riding in the bed of the pickup, including Sergio Molina, were injured.

According to prosecutors, three hours after the crash, tests showed Ethan had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit.

CNN’s Gary Tuchman and Tom Watkins contributed to this report.

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