In Defense of the Cookie Cadets
February 4, 2005
Dear Mrs. Ostergaard,
I was saddened, dismayed, and outraged to learn from the Denver Post that your daughter, Taylor, and her friend Lindsey Jo Zellitti, were successfully sued for being nice.
As Electa Draper reports (February 4), "Two teenage girls decided one summer's evening to skip a dance where there might be cursing and drinking to stay home and bake cookies for their neighbors. Big mistake. They were sued, successfully, for an unauthorized cookie drop on one porch. The July 31 deliveries consisted of half a dozen chocolate-chip and sugar cookies accompanied by big hearts cut out of red or pink construction paper with the message: 'Have a great night.' The notes were signed, 'Love, The T and L Club,' code for Taylor Ostergaard, then 17, and Lindsey Jo Zellitti, 18. Inside one of the nine scattered rural homes south of Durango that got cookies that night, a 49-year-old woman became so terrified by the knocks on her door around 10:30 p.m. that she called the sheriff's department. Deputies determined that no crime had been committed. But Wanita Renea Young ended up in the hospital emergency room the next day after suffering a severe anxiety attack she thought might be a heart attack. A Durango judge Thursday awarded Young almost $900 to recoup her medical bills. She received nothing for pain and suffering... Taylor's mother, Jill Ostergaard, said her daughter 'cried and cried' after Judge Doug Walker handed down his decision in La Plata County Small Claims Court. 'She felt she was being punished for doing something nice,' Jill Ostergaard said... Court records contain half a dozen letters from neighbors who said that they enjoyed the unexpected treats."
Quite obviously, a knock on the door in the evening is not sufficient to send somebody to the hospital. Ms. Young obviously suffered from unrelated problems, for which she scape-goated your daughter and her friend. Unfortunately, the court system assisted Ms. Young in perpetrating a grave injustice.
Please, please, girls, do not let one cynical woman and a callous court system dampen your benevolent spirit. Many of us appreciate your kindness and condemn the overly-litigious judicial system that too often punishes people for their virtues.
Please accept a modest contribution from my wife and me to offset your legal expenses. (Please split the funds between the two families.) I will also ask readers of my web page, FreeColorado.com, and other friends of mine, to join in helping to defray those costs. If you receive funds in excess of the legal bills, I ask that you split the money evenly between the girls to be used for college expenses.
Though Ms. Young and the idiot judge who awarded her damages seem to think of the girls as cookie monsters, the girls are properly regarded as kind and creative thinkers. If the judge had had a lick of common sense, he would have given the girls a medal, not a fine.
Rather than follow the crowd, the girls exercised independent thinking and came up with a constructive, original project. I wish them well as they pursue their goals and values. Please tell them that they did the right thing, and their benevolent fellow Coloradans applaud them for it.