'Affluenza' drunk driving victim seeks trial to settle civil lawsuit

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 27 at 12:53 AM

BURLESON — The McConnell family made one thing clear Wednesday: They want a jury trial to reach a verdict in their civil lawsuit against Ethan Couch and his parents.

Couch was driving drunk last June when he plowed into a group of people off Burleson-Retta Road trying to help a stranded motorist.

Four people were killed.

In December, a juvenile judge ruled that Couch — who was 16 at the time of the fatal crash — would only receive ten years of probation and rehabilitation as punishment.

Part of his defense strategy included testimony from a psychologist who claimed Couch suffered from too much wealth and too few consequences, which helped create an atmosphere of "affluenza."

Families of the victims were outraged.

At least five of the families recently settled with the parents of Ethan Couch and the family business.

But the case involving 13-year-old Lucas McConnell will move forward.

In a heartfelt plea Wednesday afternoon, the young teenager spoke of his close relationship with Brian Jennings, a youth pastor who was killed in the accident. McConnell was in Jennings' car when Couch slammed into the group.

"I know everyone says everything happens for a reason, but I don't know the reason here," he said.

The youngster was taken to Cook Children's Medical Center after the accident, where he had shattered glass removed from his head.

His father Kevin said even though his son is alive, he feels the Couch family hasn't taken adequate responsibility for what happened to his son, the other injured kids, or the families of the four who died.

The McConnell and Jennings families had known each other for years.

"Brian was there for Lucas' birth, as I was for the birth of his children.  We were in each other's weddings," said Kevin McConnell.

Attorneys for the McConnells say they expect depositions to begin next month. They will seek a trial  date soon after, although it's likely that process could drag out for months.

Couch is spending an undetermined amount of time at an undisclosed rehab facility in Texas.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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