Be Careful Who You Hug (and What You Believe)
A woman sues her nephew for jumping into her arms to hug her and knocking her to the ground. The woman suffers a broken wrist and incurs significant medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. She files a lawsuit. She loses. The internet pans her.
The woman is painted as a greedy witch out to punish her nephew for loving her. On its face, the case seems absurd. And, make no mistake, it's certainly not a strong case.
It is the plaintiff's burden to prove negligence, duty, causation, and damages to prove a tort claim. Here, the obvious weakness in the woman's case is the negligence element: Was it unreasonable for the 8 year-old nephew to jump into her arms? The jury found that it was not. However, this does not mean that she is evil, greedy, or malicious.
The woman, Jennifer Connell, filed a claim against her nephew's homeowners insurance company, which covers the acts of negligence of family members. The insurance company offered her $1.00 to settle the case, most likely due to the weak negligence element. Ms. Connell then had two options: drop the matter or file suit. In deciding to file a lawsuit, she had no choice but to name her nephew as the defendant, even though it would be the insurance company's time and money that went into the defense. There was never a chance her little nephew would be financially ruined.
In fact, through the entire legal proceeding Ms. Connell and her nephew maintained a great relationship. She recently took him shopping for his Halloween costume, and he even appeared on NBC's "Today" show with her, saying: "She would never do anything to hurt the family or myself" and "I love her and she loves me."
It is a mistake to judge a claim like this on its face. The truth behind the headline is often lost in a convenient trope like the "Worst Aunt Ever" label that the internet had attached to her.
Another famous example of this is the infamous McDonald's hot coffee case. The excellent documentary "Hot Coffee" explores the way in which insurance companies spun the case into a piece of propaganda to sour public opinion on injured claimants. This way, they could increase their bottom lines at the expense of injured persons by reducing the sizes and frequencies of judgments against them.
Looking beyond the headlines is the best way to protect ourselves from falling into these dangerous pre-judgments, especially when they could be at the behest of someone's profit-serving propaganda.
If you've suffered an injury, please call us today at 617-383-3542 to speak to an experienced attorney today for free.