Personal injury attorneys are well skilled at discussing cases people find reprehensible. If I had a dime for ever time someone mentioned the McDonald’s Coffee Case to me, I could probably stop practicing law and retire. That case, like many others, was far more interesting and complex than the headline of “Woman sues McDonalds over hot coffee”. If you are interested in what I am saying, I suggest you watch the fantastic documentary Hot Coffee.
There are other cases that people like to bring up, including some that are just fictional creations of the tort reform lobby. And my purpose for this post is not to launch an argument against tort reform… rather I want to talk about the “new Coffee case”. Namely, the awful Connecticut woman who sued her 12 year old nephew for hugging her!!! My Facebook feed has been littered with friends mocking and insulting this woman with real vitriol! I can already hear you saying, “Joe, you’re not possibly going to defend this woman or her lawsuit?!?” Yeah, I am. And, I’ll explain the reasoning behind it.
Of course the headline of this case is reprehensible. What kind of awful person could sue someone who loves them for an act of love?? The answer might be that she had no choice. The simple reality is that the civil justice system is designed to shift costs. We can not take away injuries once they occur. We can not hit a rewind button seconds before serious injury is caused in an accident. Nor, can we put a price on a broken bone to make it go away. All that we can do is compensate the injured person financially to assist with the disability, the lost wages and medical bills. In the end, that is all our personal injury system is designed to do. The person who rear-ended you likely is not an awful person who meant you harm, rather he or she made a mistake. Their mistake, however, cost you in medical bills and pain and suffering. So while they did not mean to harm you, their insurance will compensate you financially because that is the best that we can do. And in this case, the 12 year old boy is not an awful person who meant harm. But nevertheless, he hurt his Aunt breaking her arm racking up a hefty medical bill.