The family of a Burleson youth minister killed by a drunk driver in June filed a civil lawsuit this week against the 16-year-old driver, his parents and his parents’ company.
Ethan Anthony Couch was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault in connection with the June 16 crash that killed Brian Paul Jennings, 43, youth pastor at Alsbury Baptist Church, Holli Boyles, 52, and her daughter Shelby Boyles, 21, all of Burleson, and Breanna Mitchell, 24, of Lillian.
Couch and seven teenagers who were passengers in his Ford F350 truck were all injured in the crash. Two of the passengers were critically injured and one, 15-year-old Sergio Molina, remains hospitalized and in a coma. His parents have also filed a civil suit against Couch, his parents and his parents’ company, which owned the Ford truck Couch was driving.
Two boys who were passengers in Jennings’ Chevrolet Silverado were injured but not seriously. Two Burleson teens in a Volkswagen Beetle that was also involved in the wreck were not injured.
A Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office investigation has determined that Couch, who had restrictions on his driver’s license requiring that he be accompanied by a licensed driver over 21, had a blood-alcohol content of .24 —three times the legal limit — at the time of the accident. Investigators also determined that Couch was driving about 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when the wreck occurred.
Shaunna Jennings, Brian Jennings’ wife, their children Evan, Abigail and Micah, and Jennings’ mother, Janet Henson, are plaintiffs in the civil suit filed Tuesday in the 153rd Judicial District Court in Tarrant County. Named as defendants in the suit are Ethan Couch, his father Fred Couch, his mother Tonya Couch and Cleburne Metal Works LLC, known as Cleburne Sheet Metal.
Fred and Tonya Couch are included as defendants, according to the petition, because they allowed their son to drive the truck without adult supervision, despite the restrictions on his license, and they failed to adequately supervise the teenager who had already been charged with two alcohol-related offenses before he turned 16.
Greg Coontz of Coontz Cochran in Burleson and W. Burton Baker of Lummus, Hallman, Pritchard and Baker, P.C., in Cleburne are representing the Jennings family in the civil suit.
“Greg and I are honored that Shaunna and Brian’s mother have retained us to counsel and represent them in connection with their damages from the horrific and senseless death of Brian, and with their wrongful death claims against all of the multiple responsible defendants whose negligent actions caused this foreseeable and totally preventable sequence of tragic events,” Baker said.
He said that the Jennings family has not set a specific dollar amount they are seeking in damages.
Coontz said the Jennings family and their attorneys are waiting for the defendants to be served and for their attorneys’ response to the lawsuit and to the discovery.
Baker said that once the defendants have been served, they and their attorney have until the Monday following the 20th day after they were served to file a response to the lawsuit. At that point, attorneys on both sides will meet with the judge hearing the case to begin setting docket dates.
Baker also said that because this is the second civil suit filed in connection with the wreck and other civil suits are likely, it is possible that the civil suits could be consolidated. The cases could be consolidated for trial or for the purposes of discovery and then sent to trial separately.
Fort Worth attorney Bill Berenson is representing the family of Sergio Molina. Baker said he has heard that the family of Breanna Mitchell has retained the services of an attorney based in Tyler and that they are expected to file a civil suit soon.