Justice was done!
It took a Connecticut jury exactly 25 minutes to conclude that 54-year-old Jennifer Connell was not entitled to collect $127,000 in damages from her 12-year old nephew Sean Tarala over the wrist she broke four years ago when Sean, then 8, impulsively jumped into her arms to hug her, causing her to fall, at his birthday party at his home in Westport, Conn., in 2011.
It didn't help that Connell lives on New York City's posh Upper East Side and that her main claim of permanent injury consisted of this, according to her trial testimony:
“I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate.”
Shouldn't she have said instead:
"I was at church recently, and it was difficult to hold my hymnal"?
It also didn't help that Sean's mother died just a year ago, and that the orphan boy made a brief appearance in the courtroom accompanied by his bereaved father.
Connell's lawyers are now saying that her lawsuit wasn't really an attempt to hold a small boy liable for being over-enthusiastic in showing his affection for a beloved aunt. It was actually all about trying to tap into his parents' homeowners' insurance to force it to cover Connell's medical bills stemming from the accident. The lawyers issued this statement after the verdict:
From the start, this was a case was about one thing: getting medical bills paid by homeowner’s insurance. Our client was never looking for money from her nephew or his family. It was about the insurance industry and being forced to sue to get medical bills paid. She suffered a horrific injury. She had two surgeries and is potentially facing a third. Prior to the trial, the insurance company offered her one dollar. Unfortunately, due to Connecticut law, the homeowner’s insurance company could not be identified as the defendant.
Our client was very reluctant to pursue this case, but in the end she had no choice but to sue the minor defendant directly to get her bills paid. She didn’t want to do this anymore than anyone else would. But her hand was forced by the insurance company. We are disappointed in the outcome, but we understand the verdict. Our client is being attacked on social media. Our client has been through enough.
Memo to Connell and her lawyers: The tort system under which you sued is actually not a mechanism for getting someone else's homeowners's insurance company to pay your medical bills for some mishap that might have been caused on the premises by the 8-year-old child of that someone else. It's a mechanism for determining whether someone committed a legal wrong that would make that someone legally liable for paying damages to the injured party.
The very word "tort" means "wrong." It derives from the Latin word "tortus," meaning "twisted." The wrong can be either deliberate or negligent, but except under rare circumstances, it's got to be one of the two.
It's hard for anyone, much less a jury, to think that an 8-year-old boy committed a wrong by leaping into his aunt's arms. Unfortunate things happen all the time, but that doesn't mean that someone else's insurance company has to cover them.
If I were Connell, who's now being called "Auntie Maim" all over the Internet, I'd start to wonder about the lawyers who got me into this lawsuit in the first place.