Adult kids can’t sue for ‘bad mothering’

If Mom buys you a dorky birthday card or makes you come home from a party by midnight, you can’t sue for “bad mothering,” an Illinois court has ruled.

Raised in a $1.5 million Barrington Hills, Ill., home by their attorney father, two grown children have spent the last two years pursuing a unique lawsuit against their mom for “bad mothering” that alleges damages caused when she failed to buy toys for one and sent another a birthday card he didn’t like.

The alleged offenses include failing to take her daughter to a car show, telling her then 7-year-old son to buckle his seat belt or she would contact police, “haggling” over the amount to spend on party dresses and calling her daughter at midnight to ask that she return home from celebrating homecoming.

None of the mother’s conduct was “extreme or outrageous,” Cook County Judge Kathy Flanagan ruled in dismissing the case.

In 2009, the children, represented by three attorneys including their father, Steven A. Miner, sued their mother, Kimberly Garrity. Steven II, now 23, and his sister Kathryn, now 20, sought more than $50,000 for “emotional distress.”

Miner and Garrity were married for a decade before she filed for divorce in 1995, records show.

Ah! The perfect divorce revenge!

Among the exhibits filed in the case is a birthday card Garrity sent her son, who in his lawsuit sought damages because the card was “inappropriate” and failed to include cash or a check. He also alleged she failed to send a card for years or, while he was in college, care packages.

On the front of the American Greetings card is a picture of tomatoes spread across a table that are indistinguishable except for one in the middle with craft-store googly eyes attached.

“Son I got you this Birthday card because it’s just like you … different from all the rest!” the card reads. On the inside Garrity wrote “Have a great day! Love & Hugs, Mom xoxoxo.”

Judge Flanagan did not sanction the lawyer dad for bringing the case. Public ridicule will have to do.

I used to tell my daughter that if she wrote a Mommy Dearest account of her upbringing, I would present her with the bill for all the cookies purchased for her at the Italian bakery. No book, no bill. So far, this has worked.

Update: Just got an e-mail from my daughter saying she’s decided not to sue me for bad mothering. “Your birthday cards were always top-notch.”

I started being nice to her when I realized she was going to be taller than me — four inches taller, as it turns out. Planning pays off.

About Joanne


  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    The mother is no longer in danger–but she had to spend lots of money and time defending this ridiculous suit. The father should have to pay her legal costs (and probably compensation for her worry and time).

    But, of course, if that happened, there might be fewer frivolous cases and less work for lawyers. I’m not surprised that the judge (who is also a lawyer) didn’t sanction the father.

  2. Wait a minute, if you lose a civil suit in the US, you DON’T have to pay for court costs? I’m pretty sure you do here in Canada.

    • Former Teacher says:


      It depends on the state. It looks like “loser pays” only applies to business in Illinois.

  3. judge failed by not challenging the case under Rule 11 c 3 and then ordering sanctions under rule 11 c 5.

    Mother can (and should) apply to have costs reimbursed, unfortunately it costs additional money, time and energy to make that filing,

  4. I was really hoping for a “note to readers” that this story was from the Onion.

    What is wrong with people? (If my mom sent me that “dorky” birthday card, I’d laugh and go “awwww” and put it up on my mantel. Of course, I am 42 and have a good relationship with my mother, but still).

  5. Can you say “frivolous”? I knew you could!

    Too bad the judge can’t fine the dad and/or children for tying up the court’s time and resources with crap like this.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      The judge can require the father to pay the mother’s legal costs and more. To bring a case that you know or should know has no merit is “abuse of process” and it is illegal. However, judges rarely make that finding. They fear it might scare people off from bringing justified cases.

      Wasn’t it Mark E. Salamone who said, “Better to have 1,000 frivolous cases than prevent one meritorious one”?

  6. Cranberry says:

    Would you want to employ these adult children in any capacity whatsoever?

    They should be charged with barratry.

  7. I can see it as a future Law’n’Order episode, if they just escalate it to one of them dying mysteriously (take your pic of victims).