Connell and her nephew Sean Tarala made a joint appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday to speak out after a wild week that thrust both of them — unwittingly — into the spotlight.
“It was a complete shock to me,” Connell said. “It was amazing how I walked into court that morning and walked out all over social media.”
Connell said that the case was explained to her as a legal technicality. According to her understanding of Connecticut law, an insurance company couldn’t be named in a lawsuit, so Sean, whose excited hug accidentally left his aunt with a broken wrist, had to become the defendant.
“It sounded terrible to me, from the very beginning,” Connell said. “I was never comfortable with that.”
Connell’s injuries stemmed from a mishap at the boy’s eighth birthday party in 2011. According to the lawsuit, Sean was so thrilled so see his aunt when she arrived that he ran and jumped into her arms.
“Auntie Jen! Auntie Jen!” he exclaimed, according to Connell.
“All of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him, and we tumbled onto the ground,” Connell testified, according to the Connecticut Post. “I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen, I love you!’ And there he was flying at me.”
Connell broke her wrist and has complained that the injury has made her life more difficult. To wit, she testified in court that on a recent occasion, her injury had made it “difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate” at a party.
On Tuesday, a jury in Bridgeport, Conn., declined to award Connell a $127,000 judgment against the 12-year-old. The Internet, though, awarded Connell a nickname: She was widely derided online as the “#Auntfromhell.”
On Thursday, Sean came to his aunt’s defense.
“She would never do anything to hurt the family or myself, and she loves us,” Sean said.
According to Connell’s attorneys, her insurance company offered her $1 to cover the medical bills that resulted from her injuries. She has had two surgeries so far and is potentially facing a third, they said in a statement this week.
The suit was intended to force the Taralas’ home insurance company to cover the medical bills.
“I’m certainly not trying to retire to some villa in the south of France,” Connell told CNN on Wednesday. “I’m simply trying to pay off my medical bills.”
The online derision has been “painful,” Connell told NBC. She added that people were eager to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts of the case.
Many speculated that the suit would put a rift in the familial relationship between Connell and Sean. But on Thursday, Sean himself made it clear that wasn’t the case.
“I love her, and she loves me,” Sean said.