Yesterday the Chicago Tribune ran a story that has also shown up in a couple of legal blogs, like the Volokh Conspiracy. The Daily Herald also has the story. It’s about two adult children who, represented by their father, brought a lawsuit against their mother, Kimberly Garrity. It is very hard to be sympathetic to most of the complaints. They include things like sending a birthday card with no money in it, asking to have the car home at midnight, and not sending college care packages. A look at the actual court case does hint at some more serious behavior, possibly Garrity played obvious favorites between her children, but there is still very little that the court finds to take seriously.
The court dismisses this case, and really, suing your mother because you found it embarrassing when she remarried and changed her last name is not much of a reason for a lawsuit. But is there a situation in which it would be appropriate to sue your mother for emotional distress? Traditionally being a bad parent could mean that your children are removed from your care, but could you also owe them monetary damages? And where does “bad mothering” cross the line into being actionable? The children’s father and attorney is quoted as saying that suing for bad mothering is no different from suing “for bad doctoring.” Are they different? And if so, how?