By now, we’ve all heard the story of the aunt who sued her 8 year old nephew for an over-zealous greeting that broke her wrist. The original articles were outraged, “how could a loving aunt do such a thing!” She was called all sorts of names.
Since then, more facts came out. She wanted her medical bills covered (a likely not small sum) and the homeowners insurance for the parents refused. Why did they refuse? We don’t know. Perhaps because they figured she’d never sue her nephew. Nearly all homeowners (and renters) policies have available monies for people injured on a homeowner’s premises (even regardless of fault) for precisely these sorts of situation.
In her state, she was required to sue the child, even though the entity she wanted to sue was his parent’s homeowners policy. Based on the verdict, I imagine this upset the jury to no end. Comments made after the verdict indicate that the jurors didn’t want to hold the child responsible. They clearly were unaware that it was the insurance company who was actually on the hook. Thus an internet blow-up was born.
In Wisconsin, we are not faced with such a situation. We are fortunate to have what is called “direct action.” This means in cases where you do not want to sue the individual, just their insurance company, you can do so. The advantages? You won’t wind up an internet meme. The disadvantages? You are limited to the policy itself and you can’t argue that the insurance company needs to protect their insured from an excess verdict. Sometimes this is the right choice for a case, and sometimes not.
As with all ridiculous legal stories, read closely. The real facts are usually not what they seem. In the case of the evil aunt, they certainly weren’t.
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