Aunt Loses Lawsuit Against 8 yr Old Nephew For Birthday Hug That Broke Her Wrist

You can file this story under a number of headlines: (1) Why People Hate Lawyers (2) Thank God Common Sense Prevailed (3) Worst Lawsuits of the 21st and 20th Century and (4) Is This From The Onion?
A Manhattan woman actually filed a lawsuit against her 8 year old nephew because when she arrived at his 8th birthday party he excitedly hugged her knocking her to the ground; the fall caused her to break her wrist.

The incident happened in 2011 and it just came up to a jury trial this week in Connecticut. It took the jury all of 25 minutes to render a verdict that the now-12 year old boy Sean Tarala of Westport Connecticut was not responsible for the injury to his Auntie Jennifer Connell of Manhattan. Of course he’s not responsible. Kids are not judged as adults in civil trials – they are judged by what a reasonable 8 year old would do. “Reasonable 8 year old” is an oxymoron but its certainly clear that a reasonable 8 year old would do what Sean did when his aunt arrived at his party according to the Connecticut Post which reported the story:

The boy had gotten his first two-wheeler for his birthday, and was joyfully riding the bright-red bike around and around the home, according to testimony.But when he spotted Connell, he dropped the new bicycle on the ground, exclaiming, “Auntie Jen, Auntie Jen.” “All of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him and we tumbled onto the ground,” Connell testified of her encounter with the 50-pound boy. “I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I love you,’ and there he was flying at me.”

Suit-happy Aunt Jen
Suit-happy Aunt Jen
So you sued him? Really? To make matters worse, – if that’s possible -Sean’s Mom passed away last year. But that didn’t deter Aunt Jen (who the Daily News perfectly labeled “Auntie Christ” in their article on the case) from taking the matter all the way to trial – during which she wore a wrist brace. When asked by her lawyer how she was hampered by the injury she actually said the following:

“I live in Manhattan in a third-floor walk-up so it has been very difficult. And we all know how crowded it is in Manhattan.” She added “I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate.”

Attorney Bill Beckert
Attorney Bill Beckert
Believe me, I wish I was making this stuff up. Its depressing to think human nature could stoop to this level. But I don’t just blame Jennifer Connell. I blame her lawyer William Beckert of Jainchill & Beckert, a two lawyer general practice firm from Plainville Conn. Lawyers, myself included, get solicited by clients all the time who want to bring baseless, ridiculous lawsuits like this. I usually tell them “You don’t have a case. It’s called ‘Life.'” The vast majority of lawyers would have told Ms. Connell the same thing and that this lawsuit wasn’t just a bad idea – it was a nonsensical and immoral idea. But not Bill. On his website the introductory paragraph to his bio says:

“I try to become known to people so that if they are ever presented with an unexpected event in their life, either personally or professionally, that requires legal help, they’ll look to me for guidance and assistance to get them through whatever it is that confronts them.”

Well, you became known Bill. But not the way you wanted.

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6 replies on “Aunt Loses Lawsuit Against 8 yr Old Nephew For Birthday Hug That Broke Her Wrist”

I can’t believe it took all these years for her wrist to heal. I’m much older than Aunt Jen and when I broke bones in my arm four years ago, I had a cast from knuckles ro armpit. Later, a clith support and physical therapy. And a few exercise”toys” I used at home. I was completely healed, with strength restored, in months.

Aunt Jen dosn’t deserve the love of any normal person. She wants attention and is too narcissistic to have a thought, never mind any empathy for someone else.

As you can tell, her trestment of the boy and his parents angers me. The loss of his mother didn’t give her a second’s pause. I truly destest people like this.

As for the lawyer, I have no doubt your circle is filled with the type you are and you rarely come in contact with ambulance-chasers like this one. But they are in the majority. That’s why the profession has so little esteem.

If the case was, as you suggest, baseless (not abhorrent or “immoral” nor weak but “baseless”) why didn’t the court kill it at the motion stage ? You definately seem to infer that as a matter of law the child could not have been found negligent. So how come it got to a jury then ?

Whether an 8 year old acted like a reasonable 8 year old is a jury question as its based on facts – so it had to go to trial. It requires evidence on the intelligence and behavior of the 8 year old involved and evidence about what he exactly did. Judges cannot decide credibility or weigh the evidence on dismissal motions – if there is an issue of fact then it has to go to the jury. Many claims like this go to trial because one party can set forth facts that have to be determined by a jury. I stand by my use of the word baseless because even if you may have a legal right to bring a claim, some claims should not be brought. In my opinion it goes against society’s interests to have an aunt sue her nephew for this behavior.

But it was hard to hold her hors d’oeuvre plate! Surely that justifies millions!

More seriously, suppose reason had not prevailed. The kid was 8 at the time and is now 12. She sued him, not his parents. Would he even have the money to pay damages? What happens if he doesn’t? Do they garnish his wages ($0?)

I’m just wondering how one might collect against a 12 year old even if one wins.

Lucia – presumably the parents’ homeowners insurance would likely cover the claim so she would not have to collect against her nephew. This was also likely part of the rationalization she needed for filing the complaint in the first place.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met a litigator that has ever not “stood by their position” which is one reason they are so generally annoying.

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