BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — 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.
She lost her case on Tuesday when a jury found in favor of Sean Tarala, who is now 12 years old.
“This was meant to be a simple homeowners insurance case,” Connell 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 that an individual, not an insurance company, had to be named as a defendant.
“I adore this child. I would never want to hurt him. He would never want to hurt me,” she told CNN.
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.”
Connell testified against Tarala on Friday. Tarala, accompanied by his father, Michael Tarala, appeared confused during a hearing Friday. The boy’s mother, Lisa Tarala, died last year.
Connell, a 54-year-old human resources manager, said she loves her nephew, but told the court he should be held responsible for her injury. Connell claims Tarala was negligent and careless.
“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,” her attorneys said in a statement.
The hug happened March 18, 2011 when Connell showed up at the Taralas’ Westport home for the boy’s birthday. Sean was riding his brand-new red bike when he noticed his aunt, and came running, shouting, “Auntie Jen, I love you,” according to court records.
Connell’s 50-pound nephew jumped into her arms, sending the two tumbling to the ground, she testified. At the time, Connell said, she was injured but, “it was his birthday party and I didn’t want to upset him,” according to the CT Post.
Court documents state that Connell fractured her left arm and needed surgery. She claimed the injuries were permanently disabling.
Connell, who doesn’t have children of her own, said her life in a third-floor Manhattan walk-up has been “very difficult” since that day.
Her social life has taken a serious hit as well, she said. “I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate.”
Connell’s attorney claimed that “a reasonable eight year 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.”
Despite the lawsuit, the family remains close.
Just a few weeks ago, Connell said, she took the boy out shopping for his Halloween costume.
“It’s amazing the power that the Internet has that something can go viral, completely out of context,” she said. “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.”