“New York woman sues 12-year-old nephew over hug that broke her wrist”

“‘I remember him shouting, “Auntie Jen, I love you!” and there he was flying at me,’ [Jennifer] Connell reportedly testified. …She is seeking $127,000 in damages from the boy, whose mother died last year,” over the resulting broken wrist [Guardian; Westpost, Ct., News] This just in: jurors in Bridgeport, Ct. took only 25 minutes to reach a defense verdict [BuzzFeed]


  • Post the case documents please. The facts you cited are already widely reported.

    Plaintiff’s law firm claims, by the way, that she was “forced” to sue because homeowner’s policy would only pay one dollar and that “unfortunately” plaintiffs cannot sue insurance company directly.

    However, most likely the parent’s homeowner’s rates would rise just after being sued, much less had they plaintiff won her suit.

    I wonder if there was an in limine motion about the death of the defendant’s mother?

    • I suspected that there was more to this, too. She may have been better off suing the parents instead of the kid if she was trying to collect from the homeowner’s liability policy.

      It’s still a stupid lawsuit, but maybe not completely crazy.

  • There has to be a legitimate reason for this. Maybe an insurance company that’s not honoring a policy or something? Surely an aunt is not suing her nephew’s family for loving her . . .

    • “There has to be a legitimate reason for this.”

      Given that the jury took only 25 minutes to reach a verdict that was a complete win for the defense, I would think that a legitimate reason for the suit is unlikely.

      “The auntie said Sean wrecked her social life by making it “difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvres plate.”

  • Connell’s attorneys are quoted as saying the reason for the lawsuit was to “pay medical bills”, http://foxct.com/2015/10/14/aunt-who-sued-nephew-speaks-out-says-she-was-forced-to-go-to-trial/ .

    But the complaint, http://lmgcorporate.com/wfsb/news/complaint.pdf , specifically alleges non-medical harms, including the Connell’s “ability to pursue and enjoy life’s activities has been reduced” and “her earning capacity likely has been impaired.”

    If Connell’s attorneys, Jainchill & Beckert, are truthfully stating that the reason for the lawsuit was “to pay medical bills”, then why does the complaint allege damages from loss of income and loss of enjoyment in life’s activities?

    Unfortunately there is no trial transcript, but it sounds to me like Connell was not trying to get damages solely for medical expenses (which her insurance would ordinarily cover anyway), but rather for loss of enjoyment in life and reduced earning capacity. If this is accurate, then Jainchill & Beckert may be misrepresenting the facts in their comments to the press.

    Without more court documents and a transcript, it is difficult to know for sure if Jainchill & Beckert are misrepresenting the facts are not, but it is odd that numerous media outlets are quoting their explanation without indicating whether what they said in court was consistent with what they claim to the media.

  • I was listening to Fox News (it was on in the background after a movie ended) and the apparent reason for the lawsuit was that Connecticut law prevents suing the insurance company directly for something that the home owner’s insurance should / may cover.

    They had to sue the kid and if they won, the amount would have been covered by the insurance company.

    Whether or not they should have sued at all over an accident is not part of my reply here. I am only explaining why the aunt sued the child directly.

    • That still doesn’t explain why she sued the boy and not the father.

      I would think that to get money from the home owner’s insurance, she would have to sue the home owner.

  • The press is assiduously at work already reframing the lawsuit as a legal technicality to pay “medical bills” and implicitly criticizing the insurance company, e.g. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/auntie-christ-blames-legal-system-suit-nephew-article-1.2398070 for a fawning interview from the Today Show.

    So plaintiffs with frivolous lawsuits are being recast as minor celebrities now, battling insurance companies to pay “medical bills”.

    The P.R. strategy reminds me of the P.R. blitz that – rather successfully – reframed the narrative in the hot coffee spill case.

    Can’t even one reporter actually verify through court records whether the plaintiff and her attorneys are telling the truth that the only reason for the suit was to recover “medical bills”?

    • Doesn’t even matter much if she WAS just doing it to pay her medical bills. An inappropriate suit does not suddenly become appropriate just because the homeowner’s insurance might end up actually paying, instead of the kid.

      The kid is 12 now, but he was 8 at the time of the incident. I think any jury would have a hard time finding an 8 year old to be liable for unintentional harm resulting from a hug. If the kid isn’t liable, then the homeowner’s insurance company isn’t liable.

      She has medical insurance, right? If her medical insurance is not paying her claims, she should be suing THEM.

  • […] case it wasn’t clear already — but Overlawyered readers knew, didn’t they? — the aunt who sued her nephew […]

  • Of course they didn’t want to sue an 8-year-old (now 12) or his father into bankruptcy. It was a cash grab against the people who had the cash – the insurance company.

    Of course, in order to get the insurance money, they had to prove that the 8-year-old was negligent. I don’t know Connecticut law, but I would imagine it is similar to the laws of other states – children aren’t held to the same standard of care as adults because they have poor impulse control and poor judgment.

    If an 8-year-old can reasonably be expected to temper his enthusiasm upon seeing his aunt, then by the same token, an adult tasked with supervising that 8-year-old would not be liable if this were a negligent supervision claim. The jury came to the right decision – but there’s a good argument to be made that it shouldn’t have made it to the jury in the first place.