Better watch how you hug your friends and relatives. Too much love — and it might cost you.

I was fascinated this week by a story from The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip. It involved a 50-pound, 8-year-old boy, who, in his excitement during his birthday party in 2011, ran to hug his aunt. The embrace toppled the aunt, who said she broke her wrist and that made it difficult for her to walk up stairs, do pushups and hold an hors d’oeuvre plate.

So the 54-year-old New Yorker sued her nephew, Sean Tarala, who is now 12, Phillip reported. The woman, Jennifer Connell, wanted $127,000 for her pain and suffering.

In the lawsuit, Connell, who is actually a cousin although she refers to herself as the boy’s aunt, claimed that her nephew “acted unreasonably when he leaped into her arms,” reported Daniel Tepfer of the Connecticut Post. Here’s what the lawsuit said, according to the report by Tepfer:

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.

After questions from reporters, Connell’s lawyer says it was all a strategy to get medical bills paid by the homeowner’s insurance company. But some attorneys were perplexed, as was I. As Tepfer wrote: “A number of local lawyers questioned why Connell hadn’t simply named the boy’s father as a defendant and claimed she was hurt in his Westport yard, making him eligible to collect on insurance. After all, when Connell went to Norwalk Hospital shortly after the March 18, 2011, incident, she told doctors and nurses she had fallen and injured her wrist — with no mention of the boy’s alleged participation.”

Read the lawsuit yourself.

So how long would it have taken you to decide the case? It took the jury just 20 minutes to rule against Connell. And I think that was 15 minutes too long.

Live Chat today
Join me at noon (ET) for a live discussion about your money. If you’ve got some financial drama, perhaps I can help. Or we can talk about that aunt who sued her nephew. Here’s the link to participate in the chat.

Speaking of family: How to stop being the family ATM

In many families, there is always one.

This is often the person who has the good government job or career that has brought financial stability and prosperity. And if you are that one in your family, then you are probably also the one to whom many family members turn when they need cash.

So how do you stop being the family bank? Can you say no without feeling guilty?

Harriette Cole, host of “The Root Live: Bring It to the Table,” interviewed Patrice C. Washington, author of “Real Money Answers,” on ways to turn off the spigot or at least be more discerning about when to financially bail out a family member.

“You have to learn to say no,” Washington said. She said you have to make sure your own financial house is in order before giving family members money. “When you have a purpose, you can set priorities,” she said.

Watch the video of Cole’s interview for tips on how to give your family members a hand up and not just a handout.

Color of Money Question of the Week
If you are the one relatives come to for money what have you learned from being the family banker? Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. (Or at least give me your first name and state if you don’t want to rile relatives.) Put “Family ATM” in the subject line.

States where people have the best and the worst financial health

If you’ve got relatives who are always broke, maybe they need to move. has created a list of the least and most financially savvy states, reported The Washington Post’s Jonnelle Marte.

“The survey also looked at whether residents in each state saved for emergencies, kept up with debt payments and what portion of consumers used alternative loans, such as payday loans, which are more expensive than most traditional loans,” Marte wrote.

It may be worth it to you to look over the list and e-mail the article to your relatives.

Could your high credit score help you score the perfect mate?

Last week I told you about new research that suggests a person’s credit score can predict marriage stability.

“The researchers found that credit scores — or whatever personal qualities credit scores might represent — actually play a pretty big role in whether people form and stay in committed relationships,” wrote The Washington Post’s Ann Swanson. “People with higher credit scores are more likely to form committed relationships and marriages and then stay in them. In addition, how well matched the couple’s credit scores are initially is a good predictor of whether they stay together in the long term.”

So for last week’s Color of Money Question of the Week, I asked: Would you use a credit score to determine the marriage potential of a potential spouse? Here’s what some of you had to say:

Judy Burns of Oklahoma City wrote: “I can see the logic between comparing the credit score and marriage longevity. I think the one item that doesn’t fit is cheating. I suspect that cheating becomes more prevalent as the credit score goes higher.”

That’s an interesting theory about cheating.

“I don’t think you should pick your future spouse by their credit score,” wrote Cindi of Saint Louis. “If my husband had done that he would have never married me. I was fresh out of college with my accounting degree, $26,000 in student loans and $2,000 maxed out on my credit card. I even got turned down when I tried to open a store credit card to save 10 percent on my new work clothes. Seventeen years later, my credit score is higher than my husband’s — low 800’s last time I checked. I was just a poor working student when I met my husband, but after I graduated and got married it was my idea to only live off one income. We aggressively paid off my student loan debt and credit cards within two years.”

Susan Moore of Odenton, Md., would have a few questions for a guy with low credit scores. She wrote: “Would a poor score matter to me? Maybe, but what is he willing to do about it? Is there a willingness to take responsibility?”

Karen Lewis of Porterville, Calif., wrote: “I never thought about it in my earlier years, but at age 45 when I met my now (and first) husband, he came out of a difficult previous life. One of the attractions was how he had taken on a Census job on top of his federal position and worked evenings and weekends to be able to pay the mortgage from his prior marriage. That painted a picture of his values and his ethics. Today, 15 years later, he has almost caught up to my high credit score. So no, the score didn’t count, but the values that feed the score counted!”

“I wouldn’t require my mate to have a perfect credit score, but a bad one would be a huge red flag,” wrote Laura McAfee of Catonsville, Md. “A good mate needs to be responsible and respectful. If he’s not treating the people he does business with that way, why would I think he’d treat me any differently once the ‘new love’ glow fades?”

Earl Roethke of Minneapolis wrote: “Since credit scores correlate with income, a sensible conclusion to draw is that people with less money face more stress and this takes its toll on their marriage, as well. Their credit scores are just another reflection of their economic circumstances.”

Finally, Scott F. of Houston wrote: “Credit score is an enabler to getting more debt. I consider it a minor indicator of compatibility. Better indicators are income saved, net worth and debt load. Economic compatibility and economic goals are important to a lasting marriage.”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to