The New York City woman whose lawsuit against her 12-year-old nephew in Connecticut thrust her into the national spotlight called the ordeal "heartbreaking" in an exclusive live interview with NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning.
Jennifer Connell sued her nephew, Sean Tarala, for $127,000 over an injury she suffered at his birthday party in Westport, Connecticut, four years ago. According to the suit, Connell fell and broke her wrist when she tried to catch Sean.
It took a six-member jury 25 minutes to reject the suit Tuesday, which was filed in Bridgeport Superior Court.
This morning, the "Today" show's Savannah Guthrie asked Connell what she wants people to understand about the case.
"That we love each other very much and that this was simply a case of formality with an insurance claim," Connell explained.
Her attorneys told NBC Connecticut in a statement Tuesday their client was "forced to sue to get medical bills paid." They said Connell has undergone two painful surgeries and is facing a third, which insurance has not covered.
Connell called the media coverage of her lawsuit "a complete shock."
"It was amazing how I walked into court that morning and walked out all over social media," she told Guthrie. "It just spun and spun."
Connell said friends and family called to warn her against turning on the television or checking the Internet. Twitter posts branded Connell the "worst aunt ever," according to Guthrie.
"It was sort of heartbreaking and really painful, but also like walking into a film of someone else’s life and I hadn’t been briefed," Connell said. "So, I’ve just been in shock since that happened."
Guthrie also asked Sean, who appeared on "Today" alongside Connell, what he had to say about the ordeal.
"She would never do anything to hurt the family or myself and she loves us," Sean said of his aunt.
Connell told "Today" the idea of suing her nephew "sounded terrible" from the start, but legally, it was her only option.
"I’m no legal expert, but as I understand it, in Connecticut, it’s not possible to name an insurance company in a suit of a homeowner’s insurance case," she explained. "An individual has to be named, and in this case, because Sean and I had the fall together, I was informed Sean had to be named. I was never comfortable with that."
Guthrie then asked Connell, looking back, how she feels about the experience and the attention it has garnered.
"I’m still in shock, but it’s not been a pleasant experience from the beginning, of course. I am just confused, but I just feel like perhaps it’s the way the legal system is set up, so that the insurance companies are not in the spotlight for stepping up and taking responsibility for handling claims on properties," Connell said.
The law firm representing her, Jainchill and Beckert, released the following statement to NBC Connecticut earlier this week:
"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.
"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," the statement continues. "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."