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Op-Ed: Aunt loses suit against nephew, 12, over hug that broke her wrist

Connell, who lives in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, sued her nephew Sean Tarala, of Westport Connecticut. He was actually only eight when the incident occurred, The New York Daily News.

She had claimed that young Sean was negligent when he jumped into her arms, knocked her down and broke her wrist, The CT Post reports. Connell claimed this made it difficult for her to hold a plate of hors d’oeuvres.

Oh darn.

The jury was not impressed with this explanation either.

“We just didn’t think the boy was negligent,” said one juror, who declined to be identified on her was out of the courthouse.

Connell, 54, said that Sean was very loving and sensitive, but said she still felt compelled to sue him, Gawker notes.

Whatever happened to just asking to be reimbursed for medical bills? And why did she wait for two years to file the suit? The incident happened in 2011, and she filed the suit in 2013, CT Post notes.

She recounted the trauma of catching the exuberant boy who just wanted affection.

“All of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him and we tumbled onto the ground,” she testified. “I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I love you,’ and there he was flying at me.”

She says she decided not to let him know at the time that she was hurt because she didn’t want to ruin his birthday.

In her lawsuit, however, she claimed that “a reasonable eight year old under those circumstances would know or should have known that a forceful greeting such as the one delivered by the defendant to the plaintiff could cause the harms and losses suffered by the plaintiff,” Gawker noted, adding that this leaves the jury with the peculiar task of trying to figure out what a “reasonable” child Sean’s age would know.

What the hey?

So…the boy was supposed to be “reasonable,” but Connell wasn’t? How is it reasonable, in any way, to sue your own nephew when he is only 12?

Sean was the only defendant named, and he was accompanied by his dad, Michael. His mother, Lisa, died in 2014. Which, quite frankly, makes this ridiculous case even sadder.

“We do not take great pleasure in bringing a minor to court,” said Connell’s lawyer, William Beckert, Gawker reports here.

Civil cases like this that involve kids mean that the jury is instructed to view the child as a child, and not by a “reasonable person” standard, said William Dunlap, a law professor at Quinnipiac University, CT Post reports.

“When you’re talking about young children, you’re talking about a subjective standard–not an objective standard,” Dunlap said. “The child is not required to conform his behavior to the way a reasonable adult is expected to behave.”

Had Sean been 18 when the incident occurred, it would be a different story. He’d be expected to act like a “reasonable adult,” Dunlap said.

“The jury is supposed to judge the child’s behavior by how a child of similar age, intelligence and experience is expected to behave,” he said.

In a similar vein, judge Edward Stodolink reminded the jury to consider what a “prudent” 8-year-old would have done while his aunt was at his birthday party.

“Prudent,” the judge said again, with emphasis.

Connell, a human resources manager, didn’t react much when the verdict was announced. She merely cracked a slight smile, something she’d been doing for the bulk of the two-day trial, the CT Post reports. However, swarms of media clogged the doorway of the courtroom seeking comment and Connell plead with judicial marshals to escort her to her car, which they did.

Sean’s attorney, Thomas Noniewicz, said the only thing the boy is guilty of is trying to hug his aunt on his birthday.

“He’s a great kid,” Noniewicz said. “He’s got nothing to do with this.

“Kids will be kids,” he said. “He was an 8-year-old boy being an 8-year-old boy … Sean was not negligent.”

Connell, however, maintained that her life was more difficult because of the injury, and she noted that she lives in a third-floor walk-up, “and we all know how crowded it is in Manhattan.”

Sean’s family has not commented on this case, the Post reports.

Note: Jainchill & Beckert, Connell’s law firm, now says she was forced to sue over the medical bills she incurred due to the incident. The insurance company of Sean Tarala’s parents only offered her $1 for her injuries, and her lawyers say she’s undergone two surgeries and is facing a third, The Associated Press reports.

“From the start, this was a case … about one thing: Getting medical bills paid by homeowner’s insurance,” the firm said Wednesday in a statement. Our client was never looking for money from her nephew or his family.”

State law generally requires people claiming injury to sue the individual responsible, said Peter Kochenburger, an insurance law specialist at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

“In Connecticut and most states, if you have a claim against someone for negligence, you sue that individual, not the insurance company,” he said.

So why wasn’t this mentioned in the first place? Now this woman’s been dragged through the mud and vilified on the social media, and that’s not fair. On Twitter, she’s been called the most hated woman in America and an awful human being, the AP notes.

However, people were basing this on what’s been reported. None of the other information was brought out, and in all fairness, there’s supposed to be two sides to every story.

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