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Woman Called Out For Refusing To Pay For Expensive Cell Phone Her Autistic Child Threw In A Pool

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When someone destroys our property, it’s usually the expectation that they’ll replace it.

A person on Reddit ran into drama in a situation like this, however.

When a woman’s child threw their cellphone into the pool in their apartment complex, the woman agreed to replace the phone.

But when she saw the bill, she refused to cover it, saying that the phone that was destroyed could be found cheaper online.

The Redditor wasn’t sure how to handle this, so they went to the AITA (Am I The A**hole) subReddit for input.

The Original Poster (OP), who goes by the username DragonsflyKitteh on the site, asked:

“AITA:4 yo autistic child ruined my phone, mother refuses to pay”

They explained:

“Repost because I didn’t respond within 30 min (I was driving)”

“This holiday weekend I was sitting by our community pool, minding my own business.”

“A 4 yo autistic child ran by and threw my relatively new phone into the pool (6 months old). His mother jumped in and got it immediately.”

“She apologized and told me ‘sorry! He’s autistic. I’ll make this right'”

“I dried it in rice for 2 days (yes, I know, it doesn’t really work). It turned on but the screen was dark and flickering. The cameras were all fogged with water.”

“I took the phone to my local phone store and was told they couldn’t fix it.”

“They were able to set me up with a new phone, give me a credit towards the new phone ( I still owed $330).”

“Ended up paying $280 all said and done for a new phone with case and screen protector.”

“Sent the bill to the mother (she said she’d make things right, right?). She told me that she would only pay $60 because that’s what my phone would cost used online.”

“I told her this wasn’t acceptable, I could have bought the $60 phone but would still owe $330 for the phone her child ruined as well as a set up fee for the ‘new’ phone.”

“This would put me at about $420! I explained this to her but no joy but because she’s ‘a single mother of 2′”

“Am I the A**hole for expecting this woman to ‘make it right’?”

“I didn’t ask for what I could have or even what I would have needed had I bought that phone online and had to pay off the phone her son ruined.”

People on Reddit were then asked to judge who was in the wrong in this situation based on the following categories:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH – No A**holes Here

And though many had some suggestions for how OP could better handle this, most agreed she was absolutely not at fault.

“Having an autistic child doesn’t mean that she can go through life not paying for his breakages. NTA.”

“If she can’t contain him while out and about, then she really should be prepared to pay for the damages.” –sunshinenotwinter

“Right. This hit home to me because something similar happened when my son was around 5.”

“We were at our neighborhood’s community pool and my son was playing with a bunch of other kids.”

“A mom was standing on the steps at the shallow end taking pictures of her kids when my son accidentally bumped into her legs and she dropped her phone in the water.”

“I offered to pay for the damages and she said no, that it had been her fault for having her phone basically in the pool.”

“We exchanged numbers and after I didn’t hear from her for a few days I called her. She told me that she’d had to get a new phone but not to worry about it, that she should have known better than to have her phone in a pool full of active kids.”

“I insisted that I pay half, and she insisted that I not, that she and her husband had planned on replacing their phones soon anyway, and that they just went ahead an both got new phones then, and that she was so happy with her newer phone and they were not really “out” anything.”

“I ended up taking her, her kids, and my son to an indoor play gym and out to lunch; this she accepted. About 9 years later, we’re still friends.” –BaitedBreaths

“You are NTA. But hounding her via text could be a time consuming drama so I say… Small claims is made for stuff like this.”

“File the complaint, make sure to note the full amount of the phone (usually $800 ish) and say you are not asking this.”

“Only for what you owed on the phone and for filling fees (small claims charges a one time fee).” –Bluefrenchy

“NTA – Autistic or not, your child destroys something you pay for it. I can guarantee your phone probably wouldn’t have been sold for $60 online and she is being cheap.” –ghostcraft33

“NTA, Sorry she’s a single mom with an autistic toddler. I guess she just learned she needs to hang on to him somehow, especially around a pool.”

“The responsibility is on her, take her to small claims court. What she offered you was a pittance of what you had to pay and if she had made a reasonable offer you might have accepted it. Small claims court.” –many_hobbies_gal

“Definitely NTA. My oldest is on the spectrum and if he destroyed anything belonging to anyone we replaced it with the same thing it was.”

“She doesn’t need to pay for your new case and screen protector but she does need to pay for the full replacement.”

“Small claims court will take care of this if she’s unwilling to pay up. Keep all contact in writing (text/email) so you have proof of everything she says or offers too.” –Conscious_Survey7009

“NTA. You aren’t an asshole for expecting the mother to make it right, but I wonder if you are seeing things clearly.”

“Think of it like a car. If your car is worth $10k and you owe $13k on it and somebody totals it, their insurance would pay you $10k, not $13k.”

“The fact that you are upside down on the car is irrelevant to its replacement value. If you owed nothing, would you expect nothing in compensation?”

“This phone situation is no different. Prior to the incident, you had a used phone with a debt attached.”

“If you bought an exact replacement and she reimbursed you ($60+ the fee for replacing it with your provider for switching them out), then you would be exactly where you started. That is making you whole.”

“That’s not what you did. You made a conscious choice to upgrade to a newer phone. This isn’t making you whole, it’s improving on your situation.”

“Take it back to the car scenario. If you totaled my 2014 Altima with 150k miles on it, you owe me a 2014 Altima with 150k miles, not a 2023 Altima with 0 miles.”

“Another matter to consider is the following. She’s a single mother with an autistic child. Life’s hard enough for her.”

“While her problems aren’t your problems, you shouldn’t be trying to profit off of her child’s actions, which is what you are doing.” –EnvironmentalCut8067

After reading their fellow Redditors’ comments, OP came back to post a few updates on this situation.

“EDIT: Thanks to all for your insights and comments. Each one has helped me gain perspective on this situation.”

“Small update: The phone was supposed to be water resistant for a short period. It wasn’t.”

“I’ve learned my lesson to be more aware of where my phone is and won’t be bringing it poolside again.”

“I’ve searched my previous phone in pre-owned and ‘good’ condition and I find pre-owned Motorola Edge 2021 on ebay from $180-279.”

“I don’t want to hound her or create bad feelings since we live in the same complex.”

“It’s obvious now that it’s not right to ask her to pay for the screen protector or case since we did buy a new phone and not the previous.”

“I’m willing to just ask for the cost of the phone and set up fee. If she thinks $60 or $66 is ‘fair’ for the phone and is willing to pay the set up fee of $45.”

“We’ll cover the taxes and other stuff since we’d need it anyway.”

“I’m NOT going to sue her or take her to small claims court, it was an interesting idea to entertain but only for a hot second. I realized it’s just a phone, not life changing.”

“As some of you have said, times are already tough for her.”

“Honestly, I just want some compensation, not to cause her financial distress causing her to take food/activities from her children this summer.”

“I don’t want that on my conscious.”

“Edit 2: spelling/repetitive words. Damned mobile”

“Edit 3: I was seated in the grassy area about 10 feet from the pool. The phone was on the arm of my chair. I thought that was within my control (obviously, I was wrong).”

“The boy ran by my chair and snatched the phone, he then ran to the water and threw it in – 4 year olds are quick!!”

“Edit 4: I only stated the boy was autistic because it was his mother who initially stated it as the reason he threw my phone into the pool.”

“I’m not in any way trying to judge the boy or an entire group of people for a diagnosis.”

“I would want some form of fair (to both sides) compensation. I did admit asking for the screen protector and case was not appropriate.”

Hopefully OP can avoid this situation in the future.

Written by Peter Karleby

Peter Karleby is a writer, content producer and performer originally from Michigan. His writing has also appeared on YourTango, Delish and Medium, and he has produced content for NBC, The New York Times and The CW, among others. When not working, he can be found tripping over his own feet on a hiking trail while singing Madonna songs to ward off lurking bears.