When a man suddenly turned in front of seven-year-old Scott Swimm on the ski mountain, Scott reacted and prevented a collision. Instead, he passed over the man’s skis, and both Scott and the man lost their balance. As Scott stood up and tried to apologize, the man grabbed Scott and threatened to sue him and his whole family.
Months later, the local sheriff came to the Swimms’ house to personally serve Scott with papers. “Scott thought he was going to go to jail. He did not understand what was happening,” said Scott’s mother, Susan. Scott was later deposed by three plaintiffs’ lawyers. The night before, he cried himself to sleep. “Scott was intimidated by that,” his mother said. “That was a scary, scary thing.”
The Swimms’ legal ordeal lasted almost a year. Scott’s grades suffered, and his teachers called Susan to let her know how differently Scott was behaving at school. Seeing how dramatically the suit was affecting their son, the Swimms “wanted the whole thing to stop… and I wanted Scott to be able to get his little smile back,” Susan said.
Since the cost of fighting a lawsuit, no matter its merits, is often more than a settlement, the Swimms’ insurance company decided to settle the suit.
Not only did the lawsuit take an emotional toll, it put a dent in the Swimms’ income as well. The many hours Robb spent handling the lawsuit took him away from his jobs, which both paid by the hour. At the time, Robb was working as a hotel concierge and scanning tickets on the ski mountain. Susan was attempting to start her own small business.
“My son’s age was no concern,” Robb said of the lawsuit. “My family’s situation was no concern. And I do believe the lawyers used Scott and his age as a pawn to get across a certain fear that ‘we’re going to hurt your child more if you don’t pay us.’”
“What we learned is that it wasn’t about justice. And it wasn’t about what really happened in the accident… it was all about money.”