Six months ago, a drunk teenager caused an auto accident that left four dead and injured nine others.
On June 15, sixteen-year-old, Ethan Couch got behind the wheel of his father’s Ford F-350 and plowed into two vehicles parked on the side of a Texas highway. According to court records, Crouch was traveling between 68 and 70 mph when he clipped an SUV on the side of the road. The driver of the SUV was receiving assistance from three good Samaritans at the time they were hit by Couch’s pick up; all four were killed. Additionally, two teens in the pick-up truck were seriously injured; one is no longer able to move or talk because of a brain injury, while the other suffered internal injuries and broken bones. Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
While the teen, his family and his father’s business (the registered owner of the truck) may not escape five lawsuits, the teen did avoid jail time. Although Texas sentencing guidelines for crimes like this call for fines of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years in the state penitentiary, apparently the law does not apply to the rich. A psychologist for the defense reportedly testified that the teen’s family felt wealth bought privilege, and that the teen’s life could be turned around with one to two years of treatment and no contact with his parents. Couch’s attorney argued that the teen’s parents should be partially to blame for the fatal accident because they never set limits for their son and gave him everything he wanted. The judge determined the teen was a product of “affluenza” – a victim of wealth, and sentenced him to 10 years probation. He will also be sent to a private counseling center that costs $450,000, which will be paid for by his father.
Family members of the victims expressed shock at the sentence. “There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day,” said Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident. “The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can’t buy justice in this country.” The medical bills for the teen suffering a brain injury have already exceeded $1 million. He is paralyzed, and will require a lifetime of care, around-the-clock.
Many people believe money and privilege helped Couch avoid serious prison time; that there is a separate system of justice if you have money. Should Couch be immune from punishment because he is rich? Four people lost their life; one will require a lifetime of care. Where is the justice? What do you think?
Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.