044: Halled into Court

Stella Case No. 044, Originally Published: 23 April 2003

Daniel Allen, 11 years old and 90 pounds, was running to catch the school bus home when he ran into a teacher, Eileen Blau. He really did run into her: they collided in the hallway at E.T. Hamilton Elementary School in Voorhees, N.J.

hamilton school 300x158 - 044: Halled into Court
(Photo: Voorhees Township Public Schools)

The next day, Daniel was called to the principal’s office and told Blau was injured in the collision. He cried and apologized to the teacher.

All better, then? No: two years later, Blau sued the boy in New Jersey Superior Court, claiming he “negligently and carelessly” ran into her at an “excessive rate of speed,” which caused “severe and multiple injuries, some of which are permanent in nature.”

Daniel’s mother, Stacy Allen, says “Maybe he should not have been running in the hall, but I think it was an accident. When you send a kid off to school, you expect him to be supervised and taken care of. You never expect a teacher to sue a child for running into her.” Worse, she says, the boy is quite upset over being sued. “He didn’t understand why someone would want to do this to him. He said ‘Why does she hate me? Why is she doing this? I said I was sorry.’”

Obviously, “sorry” doesn’t always cut it, but when people are injured at work they’re 100 percent covered for their injuries by Worker’s Compensation insurance. If the boy was truly out of control, whose fault is it? Maybe the people who are paid to instruct and supervise the child, such as Ms Blau?

Sources

  • “Teacher Sues Student over Hall Collision,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, 29 March 2003

Case Status

Blau filed a claim on the Allen family’s homeowner’s insurance, and the company apparently refused to settle. Apparently, that’s why it then proceeded to a lawsuit. Stacy Allen, the mother, didn’t tell the boy about the claim so as to not upset him. But when a sheriff’s deputy arrived at their home to serve a summons, the deputy apologized for serving a summons on a 13-year-old with “a chagrined look on his face,” so then she had to tell him.

I didn’t find any status on the suit, but it’s quite likely the Allen’s homeowner’s insurance paid a settlement to make it go away.

After this page was published, a reader pointed out some court proceedings regarding Stacy Allen of Voorhees, who is or was married to someone named Daniel Allen (making the boy a Jr?), involved in other court actions that make it clear the Allen family is worth millions, in part from a settlement in a lawsuit over investments.

If it’s the same family (and I couldn’t definitely establish that it is), then it’s quite possible Ms Blau’s attorney sniffed out deep pockets in the case, which helps explain the lawsuit. One reason I’m not sure if it’s the same family: multi-millionaires who have a history of being involved in litigation don’t need to “decide” whether to get a lawyer: they usually have several, and consult them quickly when there they learn of any significant risk to their fortunes.

“Stacy Allen” is probably a pretty common name, and it’s entirely possible that there could be two with that name, completely unrelated to each other, even in a town of around 29,000.

My 2020 Thoughts on the Case

The final line of the source article noted, “A trial date has not yet been set. Stacy Allen said the family is still deciding on whether to get a lawyer.” For the record, if sued then hell yes you should get a lawyer! (OK, “it depends” if it’s a small claims action.) The other side has one, and someone who has to face down a lawyer out for blood money needs someone knowledgeable on their side. Hell, even lawyers generally hire lawyers when sued!

Letters

Susan, a lawyer in Florida: “I was in private practice for a few years but it didn’t last, perhaps partly because I didn’t — and still don’t — believe in bringing frivolous lawsuits. I currently practice in the area of criminal appeals on behalf of the state. Lawyers who file and pursue the kind of lawsuits you report on deserve all the negative publicity they get. If [the American Trial Lawyers Association] believes that any of the stories you are disseminating are false, then they should take all appropriate steps to correct the record. But I certainly hope that what you are doing is NOT harmless to trial lawyers, but that it causes the bar to think twice about bringing garbage lawsuits, the bench to throw out such ridiculous cases, and the members of the public who serve on juries to deny any ‘relief’ to the fools, jerks, and lowlifes who file such lawsuits. And I don’t think that any criminal or anyone in his/her family is entitled to any damages whatsoever when he/she is injured or killed in the course of perpetrating a felony. Please keep up the good work, and may your readership grow exponentially, and may all of your readers practice what you preach.”

The statistic in my editorial also brought mail.

Gary in New York: “I find the 2.33% of the GDP number staggering, and hearing it makes the True Stella Awards that much more relevant. I wish everyone in this country was reading TSA, but especially legislators at every level of government. To me, the most frustrating part of the lawsuit problem is the rampant unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions. I’ve personally seen the effects of this: I used to regularly enjoy mountain biking on a tract of private land. The trails were popular and fairly heavily used for years. Then a couple years ago, a rider injured himself and sued the land owner. I don’t even know the outcome of the case, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the result on public access to those trails. I’d love to meet that plaintiff and personally thank him for ruining a great recreational opportunity for hundreds of people like me just because he felt like falling on his head had to be someone else’s fault. I’ve fallen numerous times while mountain biking, skiing, skating, climbing and hiking, but strangely I’ve never once considered suing anyone! Keep up the good fight. Knowledge is the best weapon.”

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4 Comments on “044: Halled into Court

  1. I completely agree with most of the issues you bring up in this series. I would like to note that there are good lawyers out there too.

    In 1970, I was in college and was hit by a car while I was on my motorcycle. The car ran a red light, broadsided me, sending me flying about 20 feet, then continued on. The driver stopped 2 blocks later when 2 other cars who saw the accident chased after her. My bike was destroyed, and I spent a day in the hospital. Being a student, I was broke and could not afford a new vehicle.

    I decided I should see about suing the hit-and-run driver, and talked to a lawyer. After hearing my story, he told me that my insurance would replace the bike, and that my hospital stay had cost me nothing since it was the college student hospital. He told me that I should take this as a lesson to watch intersections more closely and not assume that Right of Way was any guarantee of complete safety. He refused to take the case, and suggested I learn from it and get on with my life.

    I was 20 at the time, but that lawyer went a long way in helping me develop my own attitude of taking responsibility for actions, and getting on with life rather than reliving every perceived slight over and over in court. I never spoke to that lawyer again, but sometimes wish I had kept in touch, so I could let him know that he not only avoided an unnecessary court case, but helped me develop my lifelong aversion to such cases.

    I definitely have spoken of good lawyers many times in the series, but am still glad to get your interesting inside perspective on another. -rc

    Reply
  2. It is clear that this lawsuit should never have happened. You just don’t sue a child for behaving like a child. I have to wonder why he was late for his bus ride home. When I was in school there were people tasked with making bloody well sure that students were where they needed to be in order to get whatever ride they needed home. He should never have been put into a position that caused him to fear missing his bus.

    As far as workman’s compensation insurance, that coverage is not cut and dried. I admit that my every experience with health insurance has left me near homicidal, the workman’s comp people my employer deals with are absolute criminals.

    My on the job injury some six years ago happened in front of some forty witnesses. The insurer declined to cover the expense. On the advice of an attorney, I settled for $1500 on a $9000 medical bill. Still, one would expect that the state would have a legitimate insurance company, should such a thing actually exist.

    My experience with worker’s comp was for a completely unwitnessed on-the-job injury that resulted in three surgeries and a year of rehab (and boy was I tired of rehab!) Insurance paid every penny without questioning any of it. -rc

    Reply
  3. If indeed the teacher had permanent injuries, would it not be sensible to sue the child’s parent’s homeowner policy writer? As previously pointed out, workman’s comp often does not cover lifetime problems from injuries. And if the “runner” had been one of the teachers late for something, would your conclusion still be the same? Regardless of the age of the runner, he did cause an injury supposedly with permanent effects. This does not mean that the act of the child was intentional, but that he was the responsible party. If a child accidentally shifts a car from park into drive while the parent is outside the car, and if the car injures somebody, the child’s parents are held responsible.

    Reply
  4. A running child is far from silent so the teacher must have heard him coming and decided she had right of way and to hell with the child. My late father in law, a magistrate, often said lawyer is the Olde Englishe spelling of liar and he would probably have said the child should have cross sued for negligence or obstruction or something similar.

    Reply

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