Television and social media outlets were set ablaze this week after a Connecticut jury ruled against Jennifer Connell, who sued a 12-year-old relative for $127,000 to recoup medical bills. Connell’s personal injury lawsuit claimed she fell and broke her wrist in 2011 after her then 8-year-old relative enthusiastically leapt into her arms as she arrived for the child’s birthday party. Connell asked the insurance company of the boy's parents to pay for the hospital bills related to her injury. They offered her $1. Faced with big hospital bills she could not otherwise pay, Connell was forced to file suit in order to compel the insurance company to cover her damages.
To the unsophisticated, the story looked bad: a 54-year-old suing a 12-year-old for a broken wrist. But in reality, the law regarding insurance coverage forced Connell to name the boy as the defendant in a suit in order to force the insurance company to provide the service it purports to provide: to pay the financial costs of unfortunate events.
Attorneys for Jennifer Connell claim they had no other choice than to name the young boy as the sole defendant under Connecticut law, a move which drew sharp criticism from the media. Connell’s personal injury lawsuit sought damages to recover for the past and future medical expenses.
Several media outlets have identified as the plaintiff and defendant as aunt and nephew, respectively, but the boy is actually the son of one of the plaintiff’s cousins and refers to Connell as “Auntie Jen.”
While Internet and television pundits lambasted Connell, legal experts speculate the suit has more to due with our nation’s convoluted insurance practices than an attempt to punish a child. In order to trigger insurance coverage on behalf of the insurance company of the boy’s parents, Connell had to seek judgement against the boy for reckless behavior, according to her attorneys.
Connell may also have been forced to sue the child by her medical insurance provider under subrogation provisions (a process why which insurance companies recover payouts by obtaining reimbursement from parties who caused the injury) of her medical coverage. While characterized as greedy and outrageous by some, the $127,000 Connell sought may be the amount of coverage set by the insurance company of the defendant’s parents.
Seeking the maximum amount of compensation from an insurance provider is “Bargaining 101” as any negotiation made in good faith may ultimately result in both parties agreeing to a lower settlement amount. The unfortunate part of Connell’s story is despite loving and remaining close to her young relative, she has been demonized by the media for merely complying with state laws. Every year, tens of thousands of people are forced to file suit against insurance companies unwilling to pay out adequate claims to injury victims.
While The Cochran Firm, D.C. did not represent any of the parties involved in this suit, our attorneys regularly represent injury victims against powerful insurance companies unwilling to adequately compensate catastrophically injured victims. If you or a loved one suffered a serious personal injury, contact The Cochran Firm, D.C. for a free legal consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.