Jennifer Connell, a New York woman, has had her online reputation completely obliterated after making headlines for suing her 12-year old nephew over a "forceful greeting," which has otherwise been described as an enthusiastic hug on the day of his 8th birthday party.
This is the narrative that has taken the Internet by storm and led to numerous hateful social media comments and disparaging articles, not to mention the trending hashtag #AuntFromHell.
If this is all you know about the story, it's easy to see why people would be outraged. On the surface, it's the tale of a woman whose young nephew was so excited to see her on his birthday that he jumped into her arms to hug her and inadvertently injured her and the woman reacted by suing.
There is more to the story, however (as there so often is), and things are looking like Jennifer Connell may just not be the monster she has been made out to be by so many. Rather, it appears that she is a victim to laws and the insurance industry.
Jainchill and Beckert, the law firm representing Connell reportedly stated that "prior to the trial, the insurance company offered her one dollar. Unfortunately, due to Connecticut law, the homeowner’s insurance company could not be identified as the defendant."
Connell's representation has been clear that Connell herself never actually wanted to sue her nephew, but that her hand was basically forced. As Gawker reports:
Filing the claim obliged Connell to take the responsible party—who happened to be 12—to court. She lost the case and wasn’t able to recover any money. Even if she had, it wouldn’t have been from her nephew, Sean Tarala, but from his family’s homeowner’s insurance.
“From the start, this was a case was about one thing: getting medical bills paid by homeowner’s insurance,” her lawyers’ statement said,“Our client was very reluctant to pursue this case, but in the end she had no choice … Her hand was forced by the insurance company. We are disappointed in the outcome, but we understand the verdict.”
It's hard to imagine that Connell's online reputation will recover greatly from this (unless the U.S. adopts European-like "right to be forgotten" laws). Google searches for her name will likely continue to turn up stories about how she sued her nephew for hugging her when he was 8 years old. It's entirely possible that she doesn't deserve that.
On the other hand, Connell's lawyer has also been quoted as saying, "We do not take great pleasure in bringing a minor to court. She is not here enjoying a moment of this. But Sean should have known better. We have rules for children. He was not careful. He was unsafe.”
Connelly did lose her case, so her twelve-year-old nephew isn't on the hook for $127,000 to his aunt, who has described the boy as "very loving" and "sensitive". The jury only took 25 minutes to come to their verdict.