A Connecticut jury has ruled against a New York City woman who sued her nephew over injuries she says he caused her at his 8th birthday party, court records show.
Jennifer Connell, 54, claims she her wrist was accidentally broken by her nephew, Sean Tarala, in March 2011 when he exuberantly jumped into her arms at his house in Westport, the Connecticut Post reports.
She was seeking $127,000 in damages in a jury trial that began Monday. The lawsuit was filed in March 2013, according to state judicial records.
The boy is the son of Connell’s cousin, but he refers to her as his aunt, she told CNN.
Connell claims in the lawsuit that she required surgery to her arm, and has permanent.
1. ‘I Remember Him Shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I Love You,’ & There He Was Flying at Me’
Connell testified in state Superior Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Monday that she was injured at her nephew’s 8th birthday party at his family’s home in Westport. She said she arrived at the party to see her nephew riding around on his new red bicycle. He then saw his aunt and ran to her.
“All of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him and we tumbled onto the ground,” Connell testified, according to the Connecticut Post. “I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I love you,’ and there he was flying at me.”
The boy weighed 50 pounds, the newspaper reports. Connell testified that she was injured, but did not tell the boy the extent of her injuries.
“It was his birthday party and I didn’t want to upset him,” she said.
Connell told the jury that she loves her nephew, and he has always been “very loving” and “sensitive” to her, but she believes he should be held responsible for her injuries.
“We do not take great pleasure in bringing a minor to court,” Connell’s lawyer, William Beckert, told the New York Daily News. “She is not here enjoying a moment of this.”
Beckert said Sean, “should have known better,” adding, “We have rules for children. He was not careful. He was unsafe.”
2. She Says the Injuries Made It ‘Difficult to Hold My Hors D’oeuvre Plate’ at a Party Last Year
You can read the full complaint filed by Connell above.
Connell told the jury on Monday that the injuries have turned her life upside down.
“I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate,” she testified.
Connell writes in the lawsuit, “The injuries, losses and harms to the plaintiff were caused by the negligence and carelessness of the minor defendant in that a reasonable eight years 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.”
3. She Says the Outrage Against Her Is Misguided
The six-person jury unanimously ruled against Connell, according to court records.
Sean Tarala, now 12, is the only defendant named in the lawsuit. He was in court on Monday, along with his father, Michael, and “appeared confused,” according to the Connecticut Post.
According to the Connecticut Post, she pleaded with judicial marshals to escort her through her carry through a “throng” of media. She ignored requests for comment.
Sean was not in court on Tuesday.
“He’s a great kid, he’s got nothing to do with this,” his attorney, Thomas Noniewicz, told the New York Daily News. “Kids will be kids. He was an 8-year-old boy being an 8-year-old boy…Sean was not negligent.”
Jurors told reporters outside court that they could not find Sean liable.
While Connell did not speak to the media outside of court, but later told her side of the story to CNN. She said that the outrage against her on the internet, with some calling her the worst aunt in the world, is misguided. She said Connecticut law requires an individual, not an insurance company, be named as a defendant in a law suit.
“This was meant to be a simple homeowners insurance case,” she told CNN. “Connecticut law is such that I was advised by counsel that this is the way a suit is meant to be worded.”
Connell said, “I adore this child. I would never want to hurt him. He would never want to hurt me,” adding that she took him shopping for his Halloween costume a few weeks ago.
“It’s amazing the power that the internet has that something can go viral, completely out of context,” she told CNN. “I’m certainly not trying to retire to some villa in the south of France. I’m simply trying to pay off my medical bills.”
Her attorney released a statement to FOX CT:
From the start, this was a case was about one thing: getting medical bills paid by homeowner’s insurance. Our client was never looking for money from her nephew or his family. It was about the insurance industry and being forced to sue to get medical bills paid. She suffered a horrific injury. She had two surgeries and is potentially facing a third. 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.
Our client was very reluctant to pursue this case, but in the end she had no choice but to sue the minor defendant directly to get her bills paid. She didn’t want to do this anymore than anyone else would. But her hand was forced by the insurance company. We are disappointed in the outcome, but we understand the verdict. Our client is being attacked on social media. Our client has been through enough.
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4. She Works as a Human Resources Manager in Manhattan
Connell lives in the Upper East Side and works as a human resources manager in Manhattan, according to the New York Daily News.
“I live in Manhattan in a third-floor walk-up so it has been very difficult,” she testified on Monday, the Connecticut Post reports. “And we all know how crowded it is in Manhattan.”
Connell wore a black wrist guard in court, reporters said.
5. The Boy’s Mother Passed Away Last Year
Sean Tarala’s mother, Lisa Tarala, died last year. He lives with his father, Michael, in Westport.
The lawsuit was filed in 2013, a year before Lisa Tarala’s death.
Jennifer Connell is not married and does not have any children of her own, according to the Connecticut Post.