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When Lauren Ellis was 11-years-old, she was rollerblading in front of her house. From behind her, she heard a noise, and someone called “watch out.” She looked over her shoulder, and, seconds later, she was hit by a bicyclist.

“When I went out there and I saw that this man had run over my daughter, I was angry,” said Lauren’s mother, Janet. “Immediately, it went into my head, it was an accident.”

Unfortunately, the cyclist, an adult neighbor, did not think so. He sued 11-year-old Lauren and, later, her family. “We were flabbergasted,” said Jon Ellis, Lauren’s father.

“In many instances, the name of the game from the plaintiff’s perspective is to settle,” Jon said of the tendency for individuals and small businesses to accept settlement offers — even when they have done nothing wrong — in order to avoid expensive legal fees and years of acrimonious litigation. “But we were adamant that we didn’t want that to happen.”

The Ellis’ case dragged on for four years filled with deliberations, trial preparations, media scrutiny, and legal fees. Finally, after three days of trial and two and a half hours of jury instructions, the jury only had to deliberate for fifteen minutes before deciding that Lauren had not been negligent in any way.

Though they won the case, years of fighting the suit certainly took its toll on the Ellis family, especially on Lauren. “I think it’s ridiculous that something like this could get all the way to court,” she said.

Of lawsuit abuse in America, Janet said, “There are many gaps that will allow these suits to proceed and can be very, very damaging.”

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