By Mellania E. Safarian, Esq.

We have just celebrated Mother’s Day – an internationally recognized holiday honoring motherhood that is observed in various different forms throughout the world. In the United States, Mother’s Day occurs each year on the second Sunday in May. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by social activist Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official holiday in 1914.

On May 8, 1914, the United States Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day as “a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of the United States.” See, 36 U.S.C. §117. The next day, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day, a day dedicated “to the best mother in the world, your mother.”

While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day traditionally involves presenting moms with flowers, cards, and other gifts. However, at times, Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968, Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s, women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.

Interestingly, the mother of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, considered the holiday to be her intellectual and legal property, and she was not afraid to “lawyer up” in its defense either. It is believed that she once had as many as 33 simultaneously pending “Mother’s Day” lawsuits. She even included disclaimers threatening legal action against anyone who used the holiday’s name and emblem without her permission. It was no secret that Mother Jarvis had come to despise the commercialization of the holiday. As such, she chose to never profit from the holiday, despite ample opportunities afforded to her and spent the final years of her life trying to abolish the very holiday she helped create.

In honor of Mother Jarvis and mothers everywhere, here are some interesting and bizarre legal cases involving moms.

  1. One Arkansas teenager got a valuable lesson about logging out of social media when his mother hacked into his Facebook account and started posting mean and vulgar messages on his Facebook page. The son sued, and a judge convicted mommy dearest of misdemeanor harassment.
  2. Kids are known for saying the darnedest things. One Omaha 2-year-old said a lot worse than “darn,” and was placed into protective custody, along with his siblings, after a video of his vulgar baby talk went viral on social media. The ACLU filed an excessive-force suit against the Omaha Police Department on behalf of the parents.
  3. A Mississippi mother was arrested for offering to sell her baby for $5,000 to a stranger who responded to a Craigslist ad. Fortunately for the children in Mississippi, the state passed a law specifically making it a crime to offer to sell or buy a child.
  4. Duct tape can fix anything except toddlers. It’s one thing to duct-tape your toddler to a wall, but it’s another thing to take pictures of your duct-taped toddler to share with your friends. The teenage mother and father were charged with abuse after pictures surfaced of their 22-month-old son duct-taped to a wall.
  5. You would hope that a breastfeeding mother would avoid taking powerful painkillers, like morphine, especially if the mother in question is a former nurse. But a South Carolina woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison after her infant daughter died from an overdose of morphine transmitted through breast milk.

In conclusion, in order to avoid a “Mother’s Day” lawsuit, continue to shower your mother with love and affection, as Mother Jarvis intended. This day is meant to honor the contribution of mothers, acknowledge the efforts of all motherly figures, and recognize the significant role mothers play in our society. Ultimately Mother Jarvis intended this “to be a day of sentiment, not profit,” so regardless of how you observe the holiday, remember to honor your mother, and all maternal figures, on this special day.

Mellania E. Safarian, Esq.

Mellania E. Safarian, Esq. is an experienced litigator whose practice primarily focuses on the defense of individuals and companies in a variety of insurance-related matters, including but not limited to, product liability actions involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and auto manufacturers. In 2020 and 2021, Ms. Safarian was recognized as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers for Civil-Litigation-Defense.

Ms. Safarian received her J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law where she graduated Cum Laude with a concentration in International Law. While in law school, Ms. Safarian earned multiple honors including the Order of Barristers and several CALI awards. Ms. Safarian was also a judicial extern to the Honorable Judge Larry A. Burns for the U.S. District Court, Southern District of California.

Outside of the courtroom, Ms. Safarian is an active member of the legal community. She chaired the New Lawyer Division for the San Diego County Bar Association and was a part of the San Diego County Bar Association’s Board of Directors. Ms. Safarian was also a member of the Louis M. Welsh American Inn of Court.