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Lawsuits seek damages for 'affluenza' driver's actions

A 16-year-old teen driver from a wealthy Texas family was sentenced to only probation for an accident that killed four and injured nine. The lenient sentence for the young drunk driver sparked nationwide outrage when a defense of "affluenza" was offered at trial through the testimony of a psychologist. The condition is supposedly one in which children from wealthier families lack a sense of responsibility and exhibit an assumption of entitlement. Surviving victims of the accident and the families of the dead are now pursing multiple lawsuits against the teen driver seeking damages for the carnage.

The lawsuits also target the teen's parents and a company belonging to his father. The accident took place in mid-summer last year in Burleson, Texas, close to Fort Worth. When it occurred, the intoxicated teen was breaking the speed limit on a residential road while operating a 2012 Ford F-350 pickup truck that was owned by his father's sheet metal company. Part of the basis of the claim against the driver's father is the contention that he knowingly entrusted the truck to his son.

Because of his son's age, which was just a couple of months past his 16th birthday, he only had a restricted driver's license and should not have been driving the truck at all without another adult licensed driver above the age of 21 sitting beside him to supervise him. Troubling also for the plaintiffs is the fact that the teen apparently was permitted to toss back some alcoholic beverages at his parents' home, unsupervised by them or anyone at all, breaking state law.

Two youthful friends were riding in the bed of the truck, while not less than five other teen passengers crammed inside the truck barreling down the road at an unlawful 70 miles per hour before ramming into a parked off road vehicle whose driver was busy attempting to deal with a flat. Four innocent pedestrians who were helping that driver were run over and killed. The teen driver himself and nine others were injured, with one teen riding in the truck's bed so badly brain injured that he is still hospitalized and could have medical bills as high as $10 million for around the clock care. Plainly, making those responsible pay would be an act of justice.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Victims' families in Texas 'affluenza' case file multi-million dollar lawsuits" Carol Christian, Dec. 18, 2013

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Brian Jensen

Representation in the Houston Area with 3 Convenient Locations:

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Frost Bank Building, 6750 West Loop South, Suite 800
Bellaire, TX 77401

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