Appeals court dismisses Barrington 'bad mothering' suit

Kids sued over not getting prom dress, late care package

Not sending your son a birthday gift and refusing to buy your daughter a homecoming dress may not be ideal parenting, but it's not enough to sue over, according to a state appeals court.

In a unanimous ruling, the First District Appellate Court of Illinois has upheld the dismissal of what it calls a “bad mothering” lawsuit a pair of Barrington Hills siblings filed against their mom.

The 2009 lawsuit sought more $50,000 plus unspecified punitive damages from Kimberly A. Garrity, who was accused of “a course of conduct which has caused both the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress” to her children, Steven A. Miner, 23, and Kathryn Miner, 20, court documents state.

The conduct, the suit claimed, began after Garrity and her former husband, also named Steven A. Miner, divorced in 1995, when the children were 7 and 4, respectively.

Among the claims are that Garrity sometimes didn't include gifts in cards sent to her children; played favorites with her children; told her son, then 7, during a car ride that she would take him to the police station if he didn't buckle his seat belt; did not send him care packages until his sixth semester away at college, and then only at her ex-husband's prompting; changed her surname, thus “causing attention” at her daughter's school events; and refused to buy Kathryn a homecoming dress.

On that same homecoming in 2007, the lawsuit states, Garrity provided her daughter an automobile, but contacted her at midnight and told her to bring it back.

In upholding a Cook County judge's decision throwing out the lawsuit, the appellate court stated that while Garrity's actions may have been “unpleasant and perhaps insensitive,” they do not meet the legal standards of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“At its worst, it reflects behavior that is sometimes erratic, sometimes spiteful, sometimes less than generous or fully sensitive to the material and emotional needs of her children,” Justice Joseph Gordon wrote in the 33-page ruling. “But by no means does the nature and quality of this conduct fall outside ‘all possible bounds of decency.'”

Steven Miner, citing his attorneys' wishes, declined to comment on the lawsuit when reached at home Sunday. Kathryn Miner could not be reached.

Neither Garrity nor her attorney, Shelley Smith, could be reached for comment Sunday.