My Reply To Eric Turkewitz’s Criticism Regarding “The Worst Aunt Ever”

This guy would have given The Bad Aunt the right advice...

This guy would have given The Bad Aunt the right advice…

Eric Turkewitz is a New York trial attorney, by all accounts a terrific lawyer, by the evidence of his writing an ethical and astute one, in our brief encounters a very nice guy, and the proprietor of “The New York Personal Injury Law Blog.” In a recent post, he defends the decision of Jennifer Connell to sue her young nephew for a four-year old injury she received when he hugged her too enthusiastically at her birthday party. He notes, correctly, that the decision to sue was based on the client accepting a “bad call” by her lawyer. He also includes a lot of information not mentioned in the early posts on the matter, including mine. Still, he defends Connell. He also specifically criticizes my post. Eric writes,

And this is from Jack Marshall, who says he actually teaches ethics and has a blog called Ethics Alarms (coded “no follow“):

“What’s going on is that Aunt Jennifer is pure hellspawn, a mysteriously animated pile of human excrement that embodies the worst of humanity.”

This is what happens when people elect to post stuff on the web based on an initial news report that was, shall we say, very selective on what it chose to report. This site is getting quite a bit of traffic, most likely from many who never knew it existed. So let me answer a question some of you may have: Yes, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of lawsuits, and they weren’t nearly as benign as this run-of-the-mill kind: On Suing and Being Sued.

Yes, I “actually teach ethics,” and I could, in fact, teach Eric some things that he would find useful and enlightening. I’m not going to get in a pissing match with him, in part because, as I learned from another tiff four years ago (in which I was wrong, and duly apologized), he has some very, very nasty pals, and I don’t want to throw blood in the water. This is, however, an excellent example of how lawyers often end up seeing the world, and in fact I may use his post, unattributed, in seminars to show where legal ethics and ethics diverge. It is wise for lawyers to be atuned to both.

Here was the response I made to Eric on his blog:I’ll stand on my analysis, Eric. I don’t care why she sued her nephew when it was—I will say obviously—a cruel and venal thing to do. At best it was stretch of a negligence claim, and balancing interests and harm, and awful call to put the child through that, or to have a kid’s recently departed mother’s sister—I wonder if she was his godmother too?—appear to turn against him in what must have been a bewildering encounter. You say you wouldn’t have taken the case, which doesn’t surprise me. Still, I don’t blame the lawyer, unless he didn’t tell his client enough to make a better decision than she did.

Everyone keeps saying that the Aunt Had to sue the child. No, she didn’t. She only had to sue the child if she cared more about the money than she did about the kid, and has adopted the theory, understandably popular with trial lawyers,but not so much with aunts, that every accident has to be somebody’s fault.
Your argument is, essentially, that “everybody does it” (I don’t think anyone has sued the 8-year old driver of a car, though.) Well, that’s not an ethical argument. That’s a rationalization. The post wasn’t about legal ethics, because the lawyer, as I said, didn’t do anything wrong: the child was just another defendant to him. This is family ethics. The fact that the child is still willing to trust the aunt is moral luck, and proves nothing relevant to the decision to sue.
One of the things I teach in legal ethics seminars is that just because the Rules say you can do something doesn’t mean its the right thing to do, or that the harm you bring on your client’s adversary is necessarily fair or right. (There’s a famous Abe Lincoln letter to a potential client on this topic that is often taught in law schools, as you probably know.

I didn’t bring in the insurance issue, which I thought might bein there, because in terms of how a trusted adult treats a child in the family, it doesn’t matter.

I concede your point that “hellspawn” was over the top. But she’s an awful aunt.

Let me elaborate. Eric’s arguments for why the aunt was not doing anything unethical were the following:

“But suing relatives (or close friends) happens all the time…”

This is, of course, just the biggest rationalization of all. I have heard, almost in every class, experienced lawyers use this to justify legally unethical conduct, or conduct that the rules of the profession barely permit but that are obviously unethical.

“…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.”

As I alluded in my response, I never heard of a passenger suing any 8-year old driver. It’s a bad analogy, and Eric is smart lawyer: if there’s one that actually applies, he should use that, not this. The entire ethics issue is based on the fact that this was a young boy, and the plaintiff’s nephew. Eric also fails to mention that the mother waited until his mother had died to bring this lawsuit, and that the accident occurred at the child’s birthday party. I’m sure he feels these are irrelevant, as they may be, to the legal ethics issues. I guarantee that the jury didn’t think they were irrelevant. but juries haven’t had their sense of right and wrong altered (Warped? Mutated?) by practicing law. Eric’s post also didn’t mention that aunt’s testimony that among her justifications for the lawsuit was the fact that she couldn’t hold little dishes of yummies at parties.

“…the woman testified that she remains close with the family and recently took the boy (now 12) shopping for a Halloween costume.”

Classic consequentialism. Her decision to sue must be judged only by the condition and facts at the time of the lawsuit. It wouldn’t have made her decision retroactively unethical if the child ended up hating her guts—as he should, and I would—and the fact that he still associates with her now doesn’t make what she did harmless or right. (I bet he’s not going to hugging her any time soon.)

Yes, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of lawsuits, and they weren’t nearly as benign as this run-of-the-mill kind

Ugh. Rationalization #22, the worst of the worst. The fact that Eric has suffered through traumatic laws suits doesn’t change the unethical nature of this one, and wouldn’t even if he were 8 years old.

As for my part, just as the fact that the child’s mother had died was irrelevant to Eric (and presumably The Bad Aunt’s lawyer), the fact that this unconscionable law suit arose from an insurance dispute is irrelevant to judging the ethics of her decision to sue. It doesn’t matter why she decided to sue the child. She shouldn’t have done it, and it was wrong.

In summary, Eric didn’t make his case, just as the Aunt failed to make hers.

This is a good time, I think, to republish Abe Lincoln’s famous letter rejecting a client who wanted to sue a widow for $600. I’ve criticized the letter as a poor example of legal ethics, but it is an excellent example of human ethics. I expect an aunt to behave like a loving family member, not like a lawyer.

“Yes, there is no reasonable doubt but that I can gain your case for you. I can set a whole neighborhood at loggerheads; I can distress a widowed mother and her six fatherless children, and thereby get for you six hundred dollars, which rightfully belongs, it appears to me, as much to them as it does to you. I shall not take your case, but will give a little advice for nothing. You seem a sprightly, energetic man. I would advise you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars in some other way.”

ADDENDUM 1: I forgot to mention that a primary difference between how a lawyer assesses his ethical duty and how the client should have in this case is where loyalties lie. A lawyer is bound to be loyal to his client. Lawyers engage in a ethics violation when they have competing loyalties in the same matter. Eric could not, for example, help a client sue Eric’s own child without a a waiver of the conflict. An aunt’s primary duty of loyalty should be to the welfare of children who are blood relatives and who trust her, regardless of what legal advice she gets advising otherwise.

And ethical lawyers should know this.

ADDENDUM 2: Eureka! I just realized that Eric, and the aunt, have handed the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list a new and major rationalization! It will be called “Tessio’s Excuse,” and I’ll post it after I get back from a CLE ethics seminar. See if you can guess what it is. I bet several of you can.

 

 

71 thoughts on “My Reply To Eric Turkewitz’s Criticism Regarding “The Worst Aunt Ever”

  1. To cut off a “gotcha” at the pass, my caption under Abe’s photo does not constitute a “He/She/They would have done the same thing” rationalization,for my position. Lincoln was an ethical man but occasionally, less than ethical lawyer Since the post isn’t about legal ethics, but real, everyday ethics as human beings practice them, Abe’s letter a ., —good human, dubious lawyer—is relevant to the debate. That’s all.

    • “…He/She/They would have done the same thing” rationalization…”

      You could have just said “zxi would have done the same thing”

      See, we can learn something from our colleges.

  2. Regardless of her coming out saying it was a legalism to name the boy in the lawsuit, if it comes to formally having to sue your nephew for an *accident*, something, be it the law, or someone at some point is causing this to be unethical.

  3. “This is, however, an excellent example of how lawyers often end up seeing the world, and in fact I may use his post, unattributed, in seminars to show where legal ethics and ethics diverge. It is wise for lawyers to be atuned to both.”

    “The post wasn’t about legal ethics, because the lawyer, as I said, didn’t do anything wrong: the child was just another defendant to him. This is family ethics.”

    “One of the things I teach in legal ethics seminars is that just because the Rules say you can do something doesn’t mean its the right thing to do, or that the harm you bring on your client’s adversary is necessarily fair or right.”

    “I guarantee that the jury didn’t think they were irrelevant. but juries haven’t had their sense of right and wrong altered (Warped? Mutated?) by practicing law.”

    Hurrah, well said and thank you. Probably some of the kind of points I was in-artfully trying to make as I was sputtering yesterday. Legal ethics are not human ethics. And legal ethics are certainly not my forte. I particularly like your last comment above. I got out of teaching high school English because I couldn’t stand being around other teachers in the faculty lounge. I got out of practicing law because I couldn’t stand being around other lawyers, particularly in partners’ meetings.

    Re Abe’s letter. Would it have been legally ethical if he’d: not expressed an opinion as to the case, advised as to the statute of limitations and then given the names and contact information for three other competent lawyers?

    I remember a buddy of mine recounting a professor telling his first year class: “Once you’re a lawyer, you’re not a public utility. You’re not a bus driver or a cab driver who has to pick up every customer. You don’t have to take every client.” Is that an acceptable position?

    Thanks again.

  4. Pingback: On Broken Wrists and Suing Children | The Legal Satyricon

  5. It strikes me that virtually every profession has its own set of ethics. Not all of them are in agreement with each other, as they address the needs and skill sets of the profession. I would suspect that each set of ethics conflicts with “human” ethics at some point, and then decisions must be made. Specifically, the professional must decide which set to follow, the professional or the human. Sometimes we get lucky and the professional ethics are changed to more closely parallel human, but not always. The only way Auntie is acting ethically towards the kid is if collusion exists between the family, including the kid, and her to get the insurance company to pay. I will NOT address that issue, since it may not have happened yet.

    • If that is the case (which is my expectation) the smart thing is to probably shut up to avoid giving the insurance companies more ammo to deny claims (say her health insurance forces her to sue to reimburse her expenses, but she decides to go way over the top – see hors d’oevures – to make sure she loses the suit).
      Whether that is conspiracy – tacit or not – legally and ethically is a separate discussion, but I still think going after her just for the lawsuit, which appears to be filed and reported in such a way to hide as much information, as possible is unfair to her and the family.

  6. I think your analysis must change Jack if the injuries had been severe. As described, the wrist ailment seems minor — and perhaps illusory. But, what if the child had caused serious injury? And what if the Aunt did not have the money to pay for the medical bills, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life (and no, I don’t mean holding hors d’ouerve plates).

    It seems that in that situation the ethical test might sway in favor of the Aunt’s claim. Insurance does exist for a reason, and insurance does not pay unless there is liability. Presumably, the vast majority of homeowner’s claims involve family, friends, and neighbors. So this is an interesting conversion of law and ethics — because the law at issue is designed to deal with family insurance claims.

    As an aside, this story reminds me of my own birthday injury story. I believe it was my sixth (perhaps my seventh) birthday party. My Uncle accidentally drove over my kitten and killed it. This is a very tragic thing to happen to a young girl. Anyway, it never occurred to me to seek reparations from my Uncle.

      • Then there was the time my associate class mate at my big firm job ran over and killed her cat backing her car out of the driveway on the way to work one morning. She was distraught but came to work anyway. Her litigation department fellows had a server come to her office a little later that morning with a summons and complaint captioned “In Re. Thumper.”

  7. 1. Of course it is irrelevant that the mother had died, since she died after the suit was brought. What I can’t figure out is why you would bring it up.

    2. I don’t care what “Everyone keeps saying” when it comes to legal analysis. Why you would care likewise remains a mystery.

    3. The idea that the kid is traumatized is an idea made up out of whole cloth. There’s no evidence for it. Explaining the basics of insurance to a kid isn’t that tough. The aunt said they went shopping together for Halloween costumes recently.

    4. Relatives/friends sue each other all the time since they are the ones most likely to be involved in either car or premises injuries. That isn’t the same as saying they would go after personal assets. No doubt the insurance companies would love for people to adopt your thinking. (But don’t expect them to lower your rates.)

    5. I did not “defend Connell” regarding the bringing of suit. I thought it was a loser when I heard about it, and I said so. I did, however, defend her from the unwarranted vilification that was based on a deceptive article, which diminished the nature of her injuries, from the Connecticut Post that went viral.

    6. You, and many others, simply got duped by clickbait that started with the Connecticut Post. And the way I know you were duped is that you bought the “complaint” about an hors d’oeuvres plate hook, line and sinker. The complaint itself said she has had two surgeries, to put hardware into her arm and another to take it out. But the author left that out. Why not try spending a day one-handed — and that includes getting showered, dressed, shopping (and carrying up the three flights of stairs), cooking and cutting your food. And now it is 4 years later and she has pain holding a simple plate.

    It wasn’t about an hors d’oeuvres plate, was it? Yet that it was the author put in the first of his articles, and led with in the second. Yes, it was the lede.

    Had it not been for that type of presentation, you never would have heard of this run-of-the-mill suit whose only interesting characteristic was the degree of care that an 8-year-old must exercise.

    The sooner you realize that you were manipulated by the author (or his editor) the better off you will be. And perhaps you might learn to take such viral stories with a healthy dose of skepticism until you hear more information.

    • You seem to be arguing different things. I don’t think Jack actually disputed anything you put out there… And I don’t understand why anything you said matters.

      Legally, she absolutely had the right to sue an 8 year old boy for giving her too hard a hug. That does not make it the right thing to do, and nothing you’ve written makes her any less a bad person.

      Part of human ethics is the idea of universality, if everyone exhibited the same behavior, would the outcome be generally positive, or negative? If everyone brought frivolous litigation against adolescent children for hug-related damages, I’m pretty sure the world would be a shittier place. And that’s really as far as the discussion has to go. The plate, the surgery, the continued relationship…. irrelevant. The general rule should be not to pathologize affection.

      • @HumbleTalent:
        There is nothing unethical about making a claim against an insurance policy, unless you think it is frivolous. There wasn’t anybody but flaming nut jobs that thought the kid was going to have to break open his piggy bank if he lost.

        There is something unethical, in my opinion, in ranting about someone on the web, calling her “the worst aunt ever” and “hellspawn,” over a mere claim against an insurance policy. Which is what this was. That vitriol would be better spent on the author of the CT Post articles. Or things that actually matter in the big scheme of life.

        • “…this run-of-the-mill suit whose only interesting characteristic was the degree of care that an 8-year-old must exercise.”

          If that was truly the ONLY outstanding thing about the case, isn’t that still pretty horrifying itself? What kind of world is it wherein young boys can expect to be personally sued and taken to court for acting too boyish, even at their own birthday parties around family? That doesn’t seem trivial.

        • I keep on hearing that…. “insurance policy” and I feel like I’m failing to understand. Was the child’s name “Insurance Policy”? Maybe this is my quaint Canadian-ness showing through, but we don’t carry violent hug insurance up here. What kind of insurance does an American 8 year old need, or if this is some other kind of insurance, why does it require a lawsuit against a minor?

          And again… This is all interesting, but irrelevant to the question of whether one ethically should frivolously sue an adolescent for hug related damages.

          • Liability insurance would cover just about any negative thing that happened on your property. The claim would be filed with the insurance company. Unless the company refused the claim, there would be no need to sue anybody.

            • Is that really a thing? Liability Insurance that covers personal injury? Average Americans carry that? Eight year olds? I’m just trying to wrap my head around it, and all I can come up with is because our healthcare system covers medical expenses we just don’t deal with cases like that. Or maybe it’s a cultural thing and we just aren’t as litigious up here.

              • Yeah! On my car $100,000 personal injury insurance. I have no idea what the limit is on my house, but it’s pretty high. And again, it’s for anything that happens on my property, other than acts of God (lightning strike, etc.)

                  • I bow to your superior knowledge. If somebody falls and bust’s his tail-bone going down my front steps, the liability insurance covers it, though, right?

                    • Or some family member…?

                      The key thing here isn’t “suing a family member” as much as “suing a family member you claim to love”.

                      To me, “love” is strong enough to work through issues…if a lawsuit is brought, something tells me love has long since left the picture.

                      In which case, though you may see it differently, I don’t think family is necessarily a bar to lawsuits, however I do think claiming you “love” the person IS a bar to lawsuits. (Ethically)

                    • Hypothetical: An engaged couple are making love at her home. She gets over-enthusiastic and injures his back. The insurance company says no payment unless he get her found liable, so he sues her.

                      I think that’s much better than the aunt scenario, and it’s still awful.

                    • Difficult to analyze! You’ve changed 2 variables!

                      1) You’ve changed from aunt-nephew (a non-consensual, but culturally-ethically obligated relationship) to a consensual romantic relationship

                      2) you’ve changed the conduct from from one where one party did not choose the risky conduct and the other party is to young to understand the risk to conduct where BOTH parties understand and chose the risk

                      I thought I figured out a 3rd variable, but now I can’t recall it.

                    • I did choose different variables, though 1) I don’t think you can call nephew/aunt non-consensual. It can’t be ended, that’s all. The mutual trust is entirely consensual. I doubt, for example, that the kid had never jumped into her arms before. 2) Unless this is college, I don’t think the injuring action was any more or less consensual than the kid’s leap. I don’t think sex partners, assuming this isn’t kinky, consent to being hurt.

                    • Actually, I kinda like my neighbor…but if the mayor of this raggedy outfit ever shows up at my house…..

        • You chose to only cheery pick dicta in my post, not the analysis. Yes, just printing an insulting characterization would have been wrong, but I didn’t do that, did I (though your post implied otherwise.) As I said, I’ll cop to rhetorical excess, but only slightly. A decent person, a caring aunt, an adult with values doesn’t do this, ever.

      • I think if you consider this for about two seconds you can answer your own question. My son was traumatized by being in court when he was almost twice this kid’s age. Are you really arguing “he’ll get over it”? THAT’S your justification?

        • The argument against that then is that everything was explained to the child beforehand and the child consented to the “plan”. Except that, I think at the earliest possible age, EVERYONE understand that Courts are where two parties who are *against each other* go to seek resolution of their conflict. So in other words, the next best defense saying “the kid knew what was going on” then becomes an argument that great, so now the adults are teaching the child that it is ok to game the system and to collude against the spirit of the law to get money out of some vague entity somewhere in order for the government to compel the universe to rectify for NATURALLY OCCURRING ACCIDENTS.

          Like I said earlier, even if arguments can be made for the particulars of this situation, the fact that the situation results in an Aunt suing her Nephew for an ACCIDENT, means that somewhere in the system something is incentivizing unethical conduct.

        • My son was traumatized by being in court when he was almost twice this kid’s age.

          Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. If you or your kid felt this way, that means every family must feel this way. And if you have to make stuff up to fit that fact pattern, well then I guess you’ll just do that, right? Like speculating she might be the kid’s godmother? Just makin’ stuff up.

          And here’s the thing: You trashed the hell out of this woman based on the idiotically slanted story of an ethically challenged tabloid journalist, then heaped your own speculation on top based upon what you went through.

          And then left no margin for error, not even the possibility you could have screwed the pooch by jumping on the bandwagon to excoriate her. You write with 100% certainty.

          When Greenfield called you narcissistic a few years back, he seems to have really hit the nail on the head. Everyone must feel the same way as you. Not that they could, not that they might, not that it was probable. But they must.

          • Nice. No, it’s far more rational to assume that a child isn’t going to mind at all being being sued by beloved family member which is, by definition, a hostile act…you know that little “v.” and what it stands for? Your accusations don’t track with the stimulus. You’re arguing that the child wasn’t bothered because after the fact and his aunty getting beat up in the media, he said so with his aunt at his side. First, that’s consequentialism. Second, its not consistent with how we treat minors. Third, it’s ridiculous

            I don’t care what Scott Greenfield says about me or anyone else, and you have placed yourself in the same category. How disillusioning.

            I was completely civil with you on your site, and you are name calling, apparently because that’s all you have.

          • This and Eric’s final question compete for rock bottom. HE, recall, used his own experience being sued to shrug off the likelihood of a child being traumatized—what a comparison: a child being hauled into court as a sole defendant and a not only an adult, but an adult lawyer who is in courts every day. I reference, as an example and comparison the reaction of a young man I know well as typically cool under pressure to make the point that even younger men, boys in fact, figure to be more traumatized, and Eric’s reasoned rejoinder is “you’re a narcissist.”

          • This and Eric’s final question compete for rock bottom. HE, recall, used his own experience being sued to shrug off the likelihood of a child being traumatized—what a comparison: a child being hailed into court as a sole defendant and a not only an adult, but an adult lawyer who is in courts every day. I reference, as an example and comparison the reaction of a young man I know well as typically cool under pressure to make the point that even younger men, boys in fact, figure to be more traumatized, and Eric’s reasoned rejoinder is “you’re a narcissist.”

          • I was puzzled why Eric concluded I was a narcissist because I cited my observations of my son as a young man subjected to an appearance in court. I have many flaws, but being a narcissist is not remotely one of them. Then I remembered that the list of fallacies includes #14. The Narcissist’s Proof

            Personal experience isn’t irrelevant to beliefs, and an individual anecdote can be illustrative or persuasive. It does not, however sufficient weight to outweigh more objective evidence, such as studies, scientific evidence, or accumulated data. Treating a personal observation or experience as if it does is a logical fallacy, and quite possibly a symptom or a personality disorder. It is also important to remember that all rules have exceptions. One verified example that is inconsistent with a rule doesn’t invalidate it.

            I didn’t claim that my personal experience was dispositive or proved more extensive evidence wrong. Eric, in fact, cited no evidence at all for his (ridiculous) contention that being hauled into court as a defendant in a 6 figure lawsuit is likely to cause no stress or truama to a pre-teen. We reasonably assume in most matters that adults are more resilient and less vulnerable emotionally then children, and adults are traumatized in court…that was my point, and it’s a legitimate one. But because I raised a personal observation consistent with that indisputable fact, Eric throws a fit and calls me a narcissist….Proving that he knows as little about logical fallacies and kids as he does about ethics.

      • What difference does it make to an 8 year old? His aunt may only be going after the insurance proceeds, but her lawyer, if he expects to win, has to paint the nephew as a little hugging monster, both in a deposition and during trial. As John Travolta said in A Civil Action, a complaint is a declaration of war. And the declaration of war here is an aunt declaring war on her nephew for hugging her too aggressively, regardless of who ultimately pays the bill. And that’s wrong.

    • 1. Of course it is irrelevant that the mother had died, since she died after the suit was brought. What I can’t figure out is why you would bring it up.

      Well, that’s quite an indictment of your own ethics alarms, Eric. What if she was his godmother—would a godmother be obligated to drop a lawsuit against her godson after the child’s mother died? Or go ahead and drag him into court anyway? The same standard goes for the aunt. Of course its relevant.

      2. I don’t care what “Everyone keeps saying” when it comes to legal analysis. Why you would care likewise remains a mystery.

      How about the obvious point that there is no legal analysis nor legal ethics analysis in the post?

      “Everybody keeps saying” doesn’t appear in my post anywhere, in words or concept. Why would you misrepresent me? I read your blog, Eric—I know you understand why “Everybody does it” is a pure rationalization in any analysis, legal or ethical

      3. The idea that the kid is traumatized is an idea made up out of whole cloth. There’s no evidence for it. Explaining the basics of insurance to a kid isn’t that tough. The aunt said they went shopping together for Halloween costumes recently.

      Come on. a) Being sued by anyone is traumatizing. Things that traumatize adults usually traumatize kid worse. 2. Hands! How many out there think explaining to a child why his loving aunt has to sue him because of the vagueries of insurance “isn’t that tough”? Or that the kid understands it now?

      4. Relatives/friends sue each other all the time since they are the ones most likely to be involved in either car or premises injuries. That isn’t the same as saying they would go after personal assets. No doubt the insurance companies would love for people to adopt your thinking. (But don’t expect them to lower your rates.)

      In the post, right above us, I carefully explained why this is a) a terrible analogy b) a rationalization. How often is a child sued for an affectionate gesture? If he was driving a car, yes, I’d say that’s a good negligence…

      5. I did not “defend Connell” regarding the bringing of suit. I thought it was a loser when I heard about it, and I said so. I did, however, defend her from the unwarranted vilification that was based on a deceptive article, which diminished the nature of her injuries, from the Connecticut Post that went viral.

      And my verdict wasn’t based on her injuries at all. It was based on the fact that suing her nephew was wrong, and obviously so. I didn’t base my post just on the article; I read nine of them then, more now. I linked to the Connecticut Post.

      6. You, and many others, simply got duped by clickbait that started with the Connecticut Post. And the way I know you were duped is that you bought the “complaint” about an hors d’oeuvres plate hook, line and sinker. The complaint itself said she has had two surgeries, to put hardware into her arm and another to take it out. But the author left that out. Why not try spending a day one-handed — and that includes getting showered, dressed, shopping (and carrying up the three flights of stairs), cooking and cutting your food. And now it is 4 years later and she has pain holding a simple plate.

      I have had similar injuries. I would not sue one of my nephews or nieces as a result, because this stuff tears apart families, and the background of the injury wasn’t negligence, but bad luck.

      I understand your job is to prove otherwise, and I respect that. But lawyers are loyal to their clients. It’s up to the client to show loyalty and compassion to their family’s children.

      7. It wasn’t about an hors d’oeuvres plate, was it? Yet that it was the author put in the first of his articles, and led with in the second. Yes, it was the lede.

      I don’t disagree about the slanted reporting, but my conclusions would have been identical with or without it.

      8. Had it not been for that type of presentation, you never would have heard of this run-of-the-mill suit whose only interesting characteristic was the degree of care that an 8-year-old must exercise.

      No, it was interesting because an adult relative sued a child for something he did at the age of 8 while yelling “I love you!” How often does that happen, Eric?

      The sooner you realize that you were manipulated by the author (or his editor) the better off you will be. And perhaps you might learn to take such viral stories with a healthy dose of skepticism until you hear more information.

      Nope. Nothing I heard later, though it’s good to have the details, would change my view on the story, and I’ve already used this to point out to lawyers (Today, in fact) why lawyers can’t lose sight of society ethics and culture, that the fact that something is ethical for a lawyer to recommend doesn’t make it ethical for a client to do, and finally, competent legal advice would have anticipated the reaction by the blogosphere and social media. You have a slight chance of winning, but your nephew will suffer for it, and everyone is going to hate you.”

      Your counter-analysis helped me make that point, Eric, and I’m grateful. Honest.

      • And my verdict wasn’t based on her injuries at all.

        Actually, your previous post made fun of her injuries. You called her wrist being too weak to hold a plate a “social handicap” and when she complained about the difficulty of climbing stairs you joked about her walking up the stair on her hands. We can have differences of opinion about whether she should have sued and how much this traumatized the kid, but I think you goofed in minimizing her injuries.

        • WP—what difference do her injuries make to the ethics question of whether it is ethical to sue her young nephew for dubious negligence? What’s the theory: the worse the injury, the less stringent the ethics standards?

          I would say that I muddled the issues by even mentioning the injury, which was a secondary issue: was the lawsuit spurious and based on an excessive damages claim. But it was wrong to sue whether there was a serious injury or not. The child was not negligent and he was her nephew. That’s plenty.

          • What difference do her injuries make to the ethics question of whether it is ethical to sue her young nephew for dubious negligence?

            None at all, as far as I can tell. And yet you brought it up, which was kind of my point. That you’re mad at her for suing I can understand. I disagree with you for reasons we’ve all been discussing, but I think I understand most of your position, and I understand that her decision makes you head-explodingly angry. Fair enough. But I think you let your anger get the best of you when you mocked her for her injuries. It was distracting, unnecessary, and as someone with a few joint injuries myself, it struck a sour note.

            • But that’s just it! I don’t get it! I have a dozen chronic or recurring pains from a variety of injuries sustained because of

              A) choices I MADE (either roughhousing or the military)

              and

              B) LIFE

              but this doesn’t strike a sour note with me — I simply ignore the pain and am content with the decisions I made and the benefits that followed that contribute to the pain.

              I don’t know, maybe the difference in worldviews derives purely in expectations of entitlement. Stuff happens… your contentment in life CANNOT derive solely from material recompense for all inconveniences. Sometimes, we have to transcend and be *content* because the community cannot nor is obligated to FIX everything that naturally occurs.

            • I’ll agree with you—it was a cheap shot on my part. And Eric is correct that the degree of emphasis that piece of testimony was given in virtually all the media reports distorted its significance.

    • The fact that the mother recently died is very relevant. The boy is dealing with the loss of his mother and now his aunt turns on him. It is 4 years later. Why didn’t she sue earlier? Is it because she couldn’t face her sister? Is it because she knows she could never convince her sister that this isn’t wrong, but she thinks she can con a child who wants to cling to all the family they can after such a loss? This may not be legally relevant, but ethically and morally it is very relevant.

      • Apparently the law suit was underway, but not yet in court, before the mother died. I don’t think it changes much. I that point, and ethical aunt doesn’t add to the child’s misery and drops the suit.

  8. I don’t care why she sued her nephew when it was—I will say obviously—a cruel and venal thing to do. At best it was stretch of a negligence claim, and balancing interests and harm, and awful call to put the child through that…I expect an aunt to behave like a loving family member

    Yeah, it was “obvious.” Which explains why the kid appeared on The Today Show with his aunt and said that they loved each other and would never do anything to hurt each other.

    The only “obvious” thing is that you were completely wrong in your unsupported assumption that you based your post on.

    I know there is a word out there somewhere, to describe a quality lacking in folks that make stuff up out of the demons of their mind and attribute it to others. They are lacking something, something…what is that word?…..Ethics?

    • What can I say—you’re dead wrong,and spinning. The woman sued the child, and now you think his decision to go on TV in her support was his own idea? What choice does he have? Now she’s using the child to spin her story.

      I didn’t make ant unwarranted assumptions, not one. She sued her nephew, who just lost his mother, and had a weak case based on finding negligence on behalf of an 8-year old. Those are facts…You think the fact that a lawyer advised her to do it justifies everything. It doesn’t. You’re wildly in the minority because you’ve lost touch, somehow, with what basic right and wrong. You don’t sue a child in your own family for something like this. Most people, thankfully, get it.

      • Jack,
        Is there no injury that would warrant such a suit?
        I seem to remember a case from law school Torts class involving a small child (4 years old?), a golf club and a blunt force injury.
        I don’t recall the parties relationship or the exact nature of the injury, but our analysis focused on liability and the standard of care, not whether 4-year old should be sued.

        When can you sue an 8-year old nephew?

        -Jut

          • Then how much of that is the liability of the child (still very much an undisciplined *responder to stimuli* [you know, barbarian]) and how much of it is liability of the parents [you know, the ones who chose the duty to civilize the little barbarian, when they conceived him]

            • This is another part of this situation I just can’t wrap my head around. Even if the kid was an absolute hellion and was causing all kinds of personal and property damage, doesn’t the financial liability transfer up to the parents? When the papers were signed, the mother was still alive, and the father still is. The kid is eight. If the jury awarded damages and the kid couldn’t pay them, do we send him to debtors prison? Add him to a work detail? This is insane, and I feel like I’m missing something fundamental.

          • when he engages in malicious, reckless, or other conduct that a child knows or should know will cause grievous harm.

            Good lord, I don’t know why I bothered with this cesspool. You don’t know the law. Period.

            Everyone reading your comments is now dumber for having done so. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

            • You’re just being a jerk at this point. No matter how often I point out that we’re talking ethics, not law, you keep doing the same thing. The question was about suing a nephew,not suing a random 8-year-old. That’s an ethics question. I guess that’s beyond you. My answer to the question asked is that suing a child in one’s own family for less that that level of damage plus malice is wrong, not that it isn’t legal. There is no “nephew” feature in the law. I know the law fine in this area. You, however, have allowed your practice to leach substantial chunks of ethics from your brain.

            • Gee, which comment of Eric’s is worse, this one, or the previous one?

              Here, he intentionally disregards the context of the question and clear meaning of my answer. Yes, Eric, I realize that a lawyer like you can sue a kid for many, many things, some of which would be cruel or needless, but all well within legal ethics boundaries and supported by law. Since the question was not regarding a lawyer’s nephews, however, it would be clear to all, one would think, that the question was “When IS it ethical for an aunt to sue her nephew then. It isn’t a legal question. Neither was the post a legal one.

  9. What will this child have to answer if he’s ever asked have you been sued? What happens to the insurance rate for the family if the insurance company is forced to pay? What happens to everyone’s insurance rates? What happens when the child looks back at this and realized how he was used repeatedly by this aunt? And, by the sound of things his own parents who seem to be complicit?

    The facts of the injury are not particularly compelling and you can test it by asking what she would be doing if she fell in her own home and had exactly the same injuries. Sometimes people get hurt, even hurt badly and it’s an accident. Cowgirl up!

  10. I might be a bit behind the curve here, but how is it possible that a minor can be made a defendant in a civil suit? I was under the impression that minors were unable to be legally held responsible for their actions. That’s kind of the whole point of being a minor. Doesn’t it make more legal sense to sue his father, even if it’s ethically the same?

    And how would suing minors work as a general practice? They can’t all have trust funds. Do they acquire a debt they carry with them? Or do they break open their piggy bank and then file for bankruptcy?

      • I did read that, and I was puzzled by the plaintiff’s attorney’s argument. Since when is it reasonable to expect an eight-year-old to know enough not to injure someone else? It’s unreasonable to assume they know enough not to injure themselves, and the law reflects that. Legally, they can’t be assumed to have any sense of safety. It’s why they get their own criminal court system, which doesn’t even kick in for cases of mere “negligence”. Their parents have to deal with the legal consequences. Or am I just mistaken, and juvenile civil law was written by Franz Kafka?

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