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That’s the way the cookie crumbles

Frightened neighbor sues teens over late-night gift — and wins

MSNBC News Services
Feb. 4, 2005

DURANGO, Colo. - Two teenage girls who surprised their neighbors with homemade cookies late one night were ordered to pay nearly $900 in medical bills plus court costs for a woman who says she was so startled that she had to go to the hospital.

La Plata County Court Judge Doug Walker declined Thursday to award punitive damages, saying he did not believe the girls acted maliciously but that 10:30 was fairly late at night for them to be out.

Taylor Ostergaard, then 17, and Lindsey Jo Zellitti, then 18, baked the chocolate chip and sugar cookies one night last July. They made packages with a half-dozen cookies each and added large red or pink construction-paper hearts that carried the message, “Have a great night” and were signed with their first initials: “Love, The T and L Club.” Then they set off to make their deliveries.

The Denver Post reported Friday that the girls had decided to stay home and bake the cookies rather than go to a dance where there might be cursing and drinking. It reported that six neighbors wrote letters entered as evidence in the case thanking the girls for the cookies.

‘Shadowy figures’ and no answer to ‘Who’s there?’

But Wanita Renea Young, 49, said she was at her rural home south of Durango around 10:30 p.m. when she saw “shadowy figures” outside the house banging repeatedly on her door. She yelled, “Who’s there?” but no one answered, and the figures ran away.

The teens said they did not answer when the woman called out because they wanted the treats to be a surprise.

Frightened, Young spent the night at her sister’s home, then went to the hospital the next morning because she was still shaking, had an upset stomach and feared she had had a heart attack.

Apologies called insincere

The teenagers’ families offered to pay Young’s medical bills, but she declined and sued, saying their apologies were not sincere and were not offered in person.

The girls declined comment after the ruling. Taylor’s mother said her daughter “cried and cried.”

“She felt she was being punished for doing something nice,” Jill Ostergaard said.

Young said the teenagers showed “very poor judgment”

“The victory wasn’t sweet,” Young said. “I’m not gloating about it. I just hope the girls learned a lesson.”

The two were ordered to pay $871.70 plus $39 in court costs. They paid the judgment Thursday, a court clerk said Friday.

My two cents

I couldn't believe this story. Talk about a suit-happy world we live in. This story absolutely amazes me because there are so many things that went wrong. First, it sounds like the judge is a complete idiot, out of touch with reality. He was looking for any reason to shut up Wanita Renea Young. The best he could come up with was "10:30 was a little late for you to be out". The stupid thing was, had they gone to the dance, that certainly wouldn't have been over at 10:30.

It sounds to me like Wanita Renea Young is at least somewhat mentally ill. Clearly she's paranoid about people stepping on her porch. Why would a judge reward her. He should have dismissed the case, and referred her to a mental health evaluation. Now, if she does have mental health issues, he has simply provided a more substantial crutch for her to lean on.

I'd think I'd file suit on behalf of the 17-year-old against Ms. Young, for corrupting the moral fiber of a minor. Perhaps even criminal charges should be necessary. She's perverting the worldview this girl once had. Where staying home from a dance to avoid alcohol and cursing, baking cookies, and delivering them to your neighbors in a surprise manner is not only wrong, its civilly actionable.

These were apparently good girls. They simply stopped on the doorstep of a neighbor who likely needed positive attention more than most. Some people may say that they shouldn't have knocked and ran. But had they rung the bell, and stayed, my guess is that Wanita may have sued them anyway. She may sue them, not for poison cookies, but for cookies that may contain poison and causing her great emotional distress while contemplating eating them.

This is a personal appeal to Ms. Young's sister... get your sister some help! She's fũcked up, in my opinion.

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