Thursday, 15 October 2015

Fractal wrongness

As I should have anticipated, there's slightly more to the case of Jennifer Connell, the New York lady who tried to sue her nephew for $127,000 after the kid bounded up to her with an excess of boisterous affection at his eighth birthday party, causing her to stumble and break her wrist, than meets the eye:

Here's why she did it:
"It’s amazing the power that the internet has that something can go viral, completely out of context,” she said. “I’m certainly not trying to retire to some villa in the south of France. I’m simply trying to pay off my medical bills...."

...Connell told CNN in an interview on Tuesday that “this was meant to be a simple homeowners insurance case” and said her attorney had advised her how the lawsuit ought to be worded.

This is “perfectly plausible”, said Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specialises in insurance law. He told the Guardian this kind of suit is a common occurrence when someone finds themselves with medical bills not covered by medical insurance, who might be able to be covered under homeowners insurance if liability could be proved. 
The Graun

Trying to sue an over-enthusiastic eight-year-old wasn't the smartest of moves and imagining that a jury would sympathise with her disclosure that "I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate" was even dumber, but at least we have some context here. This wasn't just an individual lapse of judgement, but a societal one.

Her case was never going to succeed, but in a better-ordered society, Jennifer Connell wouldn't even have been tempted to try it on. If this had happened in Britain, she'd have had an unscheduled trip to the nearest National Health Service Accident and Emergency Department. This isn't always the greatest of experiences and she might have found herself waiting longer than she'd like and having her day thoroughly disrupted, but she'd have left with her wrist fixed, thinking "Ow! That hurt!", rather than "How much! How the hell am I supposed to pay for that?"

Jennifer Connell may not be the sharpest tool in the box but she's living in a country which can spend more on its military that than the world's next ten nine biggest defence spenders combined (with only mixed results), yet hasn't worked out how to organise a health care system that can deal with the simple occurrence of an average citizen's broken wrist without turning the situation into a household budget-destroying crisis and sending every ambulance-chasing lawyer for miles around into a feeding frenzy.

At least we can be smug about it in Britain, for the moment, although with the NHS in the hands of a Conservative administration which seems less than keen than their branding would suggest on conserving our actually existing, mostly functional system, we may not be feeling this smug for ever.