In 2013, a Boston couple experienced a devastating loss when their one year old daughter died after experiencing sudden catastrophic swelling of the brain. The baby was in the care of Aisling McCarthy, the couple’s nanny, at the time of her death. The medical examiner’s report initially listed the cause of death as homicide due to intentional head trauma (known as shaken baby syndrome). Ms. McCarthy was charged with murder. However, after receiving additional medical evidence that the child, Rhema Sabir, may have suffered from pre-existing medical issues, the cause of death was changed to “undetermined”, and criminal charges against McCarthy were dropped.
After the criminal charges were dropped, McCarthy, an Irish citizen who was in the United States without a proper visa, was forced to return back to Ireland. Now, Rhema’s parents are pursuing a wrongful death case against McCarthy. Although the Sabir family has undoubtedly suffered the tragedy of a lifetime, they are actually refraining from demanding large sums of money from their lawsuit. Instead, what they are after is an agreement from McCarthy in addition to $25,000 in damages. While this is certainly no small sum, it is the minimum amount of money that a plaintiff must bring a claim for in Massachusetts Superior Court. What the family really desires from Aisling McCarthy is an agreement not to profit in any way from Rehma’s death.
Profiting From Pain
How could McCarthy profit from the Rehma’s death? Consider Netflix’s highly popular documentary series “Making A Murderer,” which sensationalizes potential legal discrepancies in the case of Steven Avery, found guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach. Guilty or not, following the release of the documentary, several online fundraisers were set up to help Avery get further legal representation. Friends and family of Ms. Halbach issued several statements lamenting the fact that Mr. Avery and his family were able to profit financially from the series.
OJ Simpson, who was found liable for the wrongful death of the same people he was not criminally convicted of murdering, was also able to profit financially from the deaths. He accepted $600,000 to claim he was the author of the controversial ghost-written book “If I Did It.”
These are just two examples of a much larger trend: individuals who have been involved in wrong-doing, yet are still able to make financial gain. Being the subject of a controversy often allows an individual to gain a profit by spurring the controversy onward through books, documentaries, and the like. This is precisely what Rehma’s family is trying to prevent McCarthy from doing through this lawsuit. Jonathan Friedmann, the parents’ attorney said the couple has maintained that they would drop the lawsuit if McCarthy signed an agreement not to profit from Rehma’s death.
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