Update On “The Worst Aunt Ever” Debate

Auntie Maim and Nephew Maimer...

Auntie Maim and Nephew Maimer…

Remember the Ethics Alarms post about the favorite aunt who sued her 12-year old nephew for damages based on her injury when he jumped into her arms at his birthday party when he was 8? Remember the indignant plaintiffs lawyer who couldn’t get his mind around the fact that normal people don’t (ande shouldn’t) always see right and wrong like lawyers do, or that “it’s done all the time” (that is, The Golden Rationalization, #1 on the Rationalizations list, “Everybody does it”) and “there are worse lawsuits” ( or the worst of all rationalizations, #22, “Comparative Virtue” or “Its not the worst thing”) are not sufficient ethical defenses of a woman who voluntarily traumatizes a child who trusts her and who just lost his mother?

The Weekly Standard looks at the episode from some different angles, and writer Charlotte Allen does an excellent job providing a balanced analysis of the case (which I am now using in my ethics seminars to explain to lawyers how legal ethics alone is often not enough to make lawyers ethical). I am awash with regret that I didn’t think of the gag  “Auntie Maim” in the original post, which admittedly went a bit overboard in its condemnation as it was. Mostly, however, I am gratified that I was quoted in the piece after a well-handled interview with Charlotte, and indeed that she used my perspective to sum up the significance of the episode.

You can read it all here.

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: Continue reading

The Worst Aunt Ever

(L) Auntie Jenn in her "Loving Aunt" disguise, and (R), my best guess at what she looks like without it...

(L) Auntie Jenn in her “Loving Aunt” disguise, and (R), my best guess at what she looks like without it…

[ WARNING: This story may make your head explode. I’m not sure why mine didn’t; it may because there’s nothing left to blow.]

Jennifer Connell, a 54-year-old human resources manager in Manhattan, is suing her 12-year old nephew, Sean Tarala, in Connecticut for $127,000 in damages for an accident that occurred at his 8th birthday party.

On March 18, 2011, Connell arrived at the Tarala home  to attend Sean’s birthday party. She was greeted with the sight of the excited kid riding his major gift, a red bicycle, around the the yard.  When he spotted Aunt Jennifer, he jumped off his new bike and ran toward her, shouting, “Auntie Jen! Auntie Jen!”

Connell testified that “all of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him and we tumbled onto the ground. I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I love you,’ and there he was flying at me.” Connell said she her wrist was hurt, but she didn’t mention it because “It was his birthday party and I didn’t want to upset him.” Now, however, though he has always been “very loving, sensitive,” toward her, Connell believes he should be held accountable for her injury. Continue reading