Category: Vexatious Litigation Posted on Oct 14, 2015

How To Sue Your 8-Year Old Nephew (And Lose, Obviously)

Yesterday, a jury in Bridgeport found a verdict in favor of a young boy who was sued by his aunt, Jennifer Connell, for knocking her down and breaking her wrist at his birthday party. In a day and age where there seems to be a bountiful amount of fodder to use against the legal profession, it is still striking and disappointing that the supply continues to increase.sue-8-year-old-nephew

At the time, the defendant was an 8-year-old boy and was excitedly greeting his aunt, who had come to his party. While Ms. Connell claimed that she suffered injury, it is difficult to imagine that she thought this was more than an accident, and even more difficult to explain how she thought her eight year old nephew was going to compensate her.

Our laws do not prevent lawsuits, no matter how baseless or offensive they are. Nor should they, as we would not want censorship of our society or a heavy hand regulating what suits can or cannot be brought to a jury of our peers. That being said, common sense should be applied both by litigants and their counsel in deciding whether a lawsuit is merited. And while the law cannot and should not prevent a meritless lawsuit, the law does allow for a course of action once the lawsuit is concluded with a favorable outcome for the defendant. The remedy is called vexatious litigation.

Vexatious litigation is a legal claim that is allowed if a lawsuit is brought without probable cause and if there is a successful outcome in the end. A successful outcome includes a jury verdict in the defendant’s favor (as was the case here for Jennifer Connell’s young nephew), a dismissal of the case or a withdrawal of the case without the exchange of compensation.

Additionally, a court must find that the plaintiff had no probable cause to bring the lawsuit in the first place. “Probable cause”, per the Supreme Court of the State of Connecticut, is the “knowledge of facts, actual or apparent, strong enough to justify a reasonable person in the belief that he/she has lawful grounds for prosecuting the defendant in the manner complained of.” This is an objective test. This means that a plaintiff and her attorneys need to be able to show that they knew facts “strong enough” to justify a reasonable person in the belief that he/ she is suing for.

While this cause of action, prescribed by Connecticut statutory and common law, allows a wronged defendant the potential of double or treble damages, the probable cause standard does not preclude attorneys and plaintiffs to present cases that are difficult to win. Probable cause does not mean the case has to be winnable or won; just that there is probable cause that there are grounds to pursue the claim.

A detailed investigation is necessary to determine whether a litigator had probable cause to bring a lawsuit. If you have been sued and have had a favorable result and believe that the person who sued you did not have probable cause to bring the lawsuit, we would be happy to speak with you and investigate.

Bruce Stanger

My litigation experience includes family law, divorce, product liability, construction law, professional negligence, shareholder disputes, legal malpractice, and general commercial litigation.