A New York woman sued her 12-year-old nephew for an over-enthusiastic hug—and lost

Evidence of injury: wrists that aren’t strong enough to hold snack plates?
Evidence of injury: wrists that aren’t strong enough to hold snack plates?
Image: Reuters/Kena Betancur
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This post has been updated with comment from Connell’s attorneys.

This is the story that a woman named Jennifer Connell told a Connecticut jury recently: Sean Tarala, her 12-year-old nephew, is a “loving and sensitive” boy, but his “unreasonable” exuberance on a spring day four years ago has cost her dearly. Her quality of life has been so hampered by the wrist injury he caused by jumping into her arms that she feels he should pay her $127,000 in damages.

Connell’s lawyers said the lawsuit was an attempt to force the Tarala’s homeowners insurance to pay for her injuries, not Sean Tarala himself.

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

When Connell had arrived at the Tarala house in Westport, Connecticut, on March 18, 2011, for a party celebrating Sean’s eighth birthday, her nephew was outside riding his bike. Upon seeing Connell, Sean dropped the bike and ran toward her and jumped into her arms without warning. “I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I love you,’ and there he was flying at me,”  Connell testified. “All of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him and we tumbled onto the ground.”

Although she didn’t tell Sean at the time (“It was his birthday party and I didn’t want to upset him”), Connell’s wrist was broken in the encounter. She later required surgery and, according to her testimony, life has been painful ever since.

“I live in Manhattan in a third-floor walk-up so it has been very difficult,” she told the court. Also: “I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate.”

Her lawsuit stated: ”The injuries, losses and harm to the plaintiff were caused by the negligence and carelessness of the minor defendant in 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 could cause the harms and losses suffered by the plaintiff.”

The jury was not convincedAccording to the Connecticut Post, six jurors only took 20 minutes yesterday to reach a verdict that no damages should be awarded in the case.

Connell declined to speak to reporters until late Tuesday night (Oct. 13), when she took a phone call from CNN. “This was meant to be a simple homeowners insurance case,” she told the network. “Connecticut law is such that I was advised by counsel that this is the way a suit is meant to be worded.”

“I adore this child. I would never want to hurt him. He would never want to hurt me,” she told CNN, adding that she recently took him shopping for a Halloween costume.

This post has been updated.