Thursday, October 15, 2015


This follow-up story didn't get nearly the attention that the original story received:
The aunt who sued her nephew for damages said that she was forced to do so by Connecticut law when the insurance company only wanted to pay her one dollar.

Jennifer Connell sued her nephew after the excited 8-year-old's hug allegedly caused her to fall and break her wrist, lost her case on Tuesday....

The law firm of Jainchill and Beckert released a statement on behalf of Jennifer Connell:
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.
When the story broke, Connell was called the #AuntFromHell and "the Auntie Christ." But she was suing the boy just because she was prevented by law from suing the boy's father's insurance company -- and it's quite possible that she was suing the father's insurance company because whatever insurance she may have wouldn't cover necessary medical treatment, as The Guardian notes:
Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specialises in insurance law ... told the Guardian this kind of suit is a common occurrence when someone finds themselves with medical bills not covered by medical insurance, who might be able to be covered under homeowners insurance if liability could be proved....

Legal experts told the Guardian that there may be more to the story than a simple act of material vindictiveness if in fact Connell’s insurance didn’t cover her medical bills, and there was a chance that they might be covered under her nephew’s family’s homeowners insurance.
So you're saying that maybe in a different system this wouldn't turn into a duel between huge for-profit insurance ompanies fighting not to pay for necessary medical care? Maybe, as Bernie Sanders might say, this would have been handled better in Denmark?

Even before Connell's lawyers issued their statement, a personal injury attorney named Eric Turkewitz argued, convincingly, that Connell
was being unfairly maligned:
... suing relatives (or close friends) happens all the time, particularly in auto collisions. Who, after all, are you most likely to be with at the time of a collision? A close friend or relative. Unless you drive a taxi, you don’t often have strangers in your car.

And it’s the same with your home, in that the most likely visitors inside are family and friends.

When I first saw the aunt-nephew story, my first thought was that homeowner’s insurance would cover the incident if there was liability, and that this was similar to suing a relative over a car crash.
And on the subject of Connell's much-mocked complaints, blogger Mark Draughn is right:
Jack Marshall, who should know better, has been particularly scathing about some parts of this:
The horrific actions of the 8-year-old has turned her life into a living hell, she told the jury. “I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate,” she said. Believe me, I know what a social handicap that can be.
Yeah, when you see “hors d’oeuvre” written out, it’s easy to make fun of, but here’s the thing: I can hold an hors d’oeuvre plate. Holding a plate with small bits of food isn’t a difficult feat of strength. But the point of her testimony is that she still can’t hold a plate steady even though the injury has had four years to heal. This isn’t just a temporary problem. It’s a permanent debilitating injury.

The extent of the injury is further indicated by another point that people are making fun of:
She changed her mind, she says, because her life was “turned upside down as a result of the injury.” “I live in Manhattan in a third-floor walk-up so it has been very difficult,” she said. “And we all know how crowded it is in Manhattan.”

It certainly is hard to walk up three flights of stairs on one’s hands.
As a 51-year-old guy with bad knees, I say fuck that ableist bullshit. Did you ever notice there are railings in most stairwells? Did you ever wonder why they’re there? It’s because some of us need to hold on with our hands to steady ourselves on the stairs, especially when carrying something that throws us off balance. That’s got to be a lot harder when your wrist is weakened by injury.
As a 56-year-old guy with bad knees, I'll second that. And as someone who lived in a succession of fifth-floor walk-ups for eight years in my twenties (my knees weren't so great then, either), I'll add that when you live in a walk-up, you carry your own weighty items up and down the stairs -- groceries, garbage, luggage, and so on. Carry, as in with your hands. And wrists.

I'm not an absolute opponent of Internet shaming, but this was uncalled for. And if we had a different, less greedy system -- one that actually was socialist as right-wingers think the current system is -- maybe the whole thing would have been unnecessary.

(Links via Allahpundit and Popehat, who almost certainly wouldn't agree with my conclusions.)


Anonymous said...

Depending on the (pre-ACA) health insurance contract there might even have been a clause forbidding payouts if there was negligence, because it's the customer's job to go after any other possibly responsible parties, instead of the insurance company's job to pay out and then go after other insurors who may have skin in the game.

Anecdata: a friend had typing-related wrist trouble for which she sought help, and was advised that her regular doctor couldn't see her if she said anything about it being work-related (duh) because then the insurance company would reject the claim and insist that it be paid through worker's comp. (And he didn't do worker's comp cases because they took forever to pay very small amounts)

Unknown said...

Sorry, but no.

This is about NEGLIGENCE. Not insurance. It is the plaintiff's duty to prove the defendant acted negligently. That is the essence of our tort system. It wasn't the 8 year old boy's insurance company that allegedly caused her injury. The mention of the word 'insurance' in a personal injury trial typically will result in an automatic mistrial because you can't 'unring the bell' and you have prejudiced the defendant's ability to secure a fair trial.

Yes, I'm a personal injury attorney. Sorry about that.

PurpleGirl said...

I'll admit to not having read much about this story but I can certainly feel for the woman having to walk up to a third floor apartment. It's hard even with two good wrists/hands (and a good back or knees). A few years after I had back surgery, I went looking for an apartment in an elevator building because I couldn't do the stairs anymore to my third floor walk-up. Luckily I got into a Mitchel-Lama Co-Op and not only does it have an elevator (and a laundry in the basement) but it has its own power plant.

When I had surgery on my knee for torn cartilage, my health insurer had a third-party call me to ask about other possible sources of payment. They had already paid the whole bill but they wanted some one to cross claim -- maybe my parents, am I on their insurance (my parents are on Medicare); was it work related (no, it wasn't), was I in an accident (no, I don't drive, don't own a car). This phone call lasted close to a half-hour as the person kept asking me the same things over and over.