I really keep hoping there's some other side to this story that just hasn't been disclosed yet. Because from the sounds of it so far, this is just another one of "Everything is awful and people are terrible" tales. Here's your headline to get you started: "8-year-old Westport boy on trial for exuberance." Oh, Jennifer Connell, the social media wrath you've just opened up.
According to the Connecticut Post, Connell, a 54-year-old Manhattan human resources manager with no children of her own, is seeking $127,000 in damages from her nephew Sean Tarala, stemming from a 2011 incident at the boy's 8th birthday party at his Westport, Connecticut home. According to her testimony, the boy was riding his new bicycle — his first two-wheeler — when she arrived for the festivities. She claims when he saw her, he quickly abandoned the bike and leapt toward her, saying, "Auntie Jen, Auntie Jen."
She claims, "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." She says she fell to the ground and broke her wrist.
Now, four years later, she acknowledges that her nephew is a "very loving, sensitive" kid, but her insists, "The injuries, losses and harms to the plaintiff were caused by the negligence and carelessness of the minor defendant in 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."
Tarala, now 12, is the only defendant. The Post reports that the boy appeared "confused" when he sat in court Friday with his father Michael, a local electrician.
Sounds like Connell has had some tough times since that fateful wrist injury. She told the court this week that, "I live in Manhattan in a third-floor walk-up so it has been very difficult," which does make me wonder how she's walking up her apartment stairs — I, for one, use my feet. Connell continued, "And we all know how crowded it is in Manhattan." She also claims, "I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate."
Can you really put a price on not being able to hold one's canapés? Well, maybe you can. Maybe it's exactly $127,000.
Given the extent of Connell's reported suffering, why should young Sean Tarala get off scot-free for bounding into his aunt's arms? What else has he got going on these days anyway? Just because his mother Lisa died suddenly last year is no reason to let him off the hook. After her death, her family cryptically requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or Domestic Violence Crisis Center. Based on her obituary, which only names a sister Karen, it does not appear the plaintiff was related to Mrs. Tarala. In 2012, the Westport Daily Voice reported that a 45-year-old Lisa Tarala was arrested and charged with drunk driving, and issued an infraction for possession of marijuana, after being spotted speeding on Riverside Avenue.
The surviving Tarala parent's company, meanwhile, is currently the subject of another lawsuit involving "unfair and deceptive practices in trade and commerce," to the tune of $250,000.
Why Connell waited so long to press her case, and why against a child, is not clear — perhaps she and the family unsuccessfully attempted other means of resolution outside of court. And because the current case is before a jury now, the records are sealed. What does seem clear, though, is that young Sean Tarala has been through a hell of a lot the past few years. Jennifer Connell will no doubt not have to worry about getting any more hugs from him any time soon.
Update: The Associated Press reports that a jury found boy not liable for his aunt's injuries.