Scroll to the bottom for an update from OP 1 week after the original post.
I(28F) have a niece (16F). She is my only sister's only child. 2 years ago I married a very wealthy man (34M), and because of the pandemic, last Christmas was my first with my in-laws. My MIL gifted me a coat that is worth more than $20k (I saw her wearing it, asked her where she bought it, and she said that it will be my Christmas gift from her).
I didn't know how much it was (I knew it was expensive, but I thought maybe $3k at most). I was visiting my sister last January when my niece saw it, she Googled the brand and showed me how much it really was. I won't lie, I didn't wear it after that because I was afraid of ruining it.
Last week I wore it while visiting my sister. While I was putting it back on to leave, I felt something go splat on my back, then my niece started cackling and the smell of paint hit me. I was so pissed off while she was not apologetic at all. Her mom screamed at her and said she was grounded. Then she said she will pay for the dry cleaning.
While I was in my car, still in shock BTW, I got an alert that my niece posted a reel, it was of her doing a prank on me, and she said 'I'm going to hit my aunt's $20k coat with a paint filled balloon to see how she reacts.' I saved it on my phone, sent it to her mom and told her that a week's grounding is not enough.
She did not reply, but I saw that my niece took it down (it got less than 5 views by then). The next day I found out my coat can not be saved, so I called my sister and told her that her daughter has to pay it back.
Well, we got into an argument and she said that they will not be paying it, and if I wanted a new one, I should get my husband to buy it for me. I think that they should pay for it (they can afford to, IMO they should sell my niece's car and pay me back my money).
We did not reach an agreement, so I told her that I will be suing, and reminded her that I have video evidence that her daughter A) did it on purpose for online clout and B) knew exactly how expensive it was.
People in my life are not objective at all. I have some calling me an AH, some saying they are the AHs for not buying me a new one, and some so obsessed with the price of the coat that they are calling me an AH for simply owning it and wanting a new one. So AITA?
Edit: sorry for not making it clearer, but my coat was bought new, just identical to my MIL's.
NTA. She ruined a $20k coat. She wasn’t even apologetic.
For a prank video. For a sixteen year old she's acting a lot like a six year old.
I disagree. Six year olds are rarely that mean and destructive. This girl knew the value of the coat was extreme and deliberately set out to destroy it, record it, put it on social media and gain attention from it. That is a crime. And it isn't going to be a misdemeanor with a 20k value.
Knowing that it was 20k. That’s like intentionally crashing a car.
She and her family need to learn the value of money. Since the parents don’t feel they should have to repay it they are equally at fault. They literally let their daughter’s need for online attention write a check her ass couldn’t cash. An expensive lesson for everyone involved.
When my husband got home, I told him what happened and showed him the video. He asked if I spoke with my BIL and I said no, all my conversations were with my sister. He said that he will take care of it.
Now, a disclaimer: I understand nothing when it comes to insurance claims, and this is what my husband told me/I understood happened.
My husband talked with my BIL, told him exactly what happened and showed him the prank video. Then he told him that the coat was insured, we will be filing a claim and submitting the video, and we might have to file charges for the claim (he assured him that we would be dropping the charges, we do not want to send niece to jail).
Then he told him that one of two things might happen: after our insurance pays us, they will come after them. If their insurance pays, their premium will skyrocket. If it doesn't, they might sue them, and might get a lien on their house.
My BIL asked if there was a way he could pay us without involving insurance, my husband told him that that was what we wanted at first, but that my sister insisted that they will not be paying us back. Apparently, my BIL was not in the know, and he was very pissed off at what my niece did, and my sister's response.
So they came to this solution: my niece's car will be sold, and if it doesn't fetch the whole compensation money, she will have to get a job and pay me the whole check untill it is paid off. Also she is grounded for the rest of the school year. I am thankful for the people who encouraged me to talk with my husband.
Was there an apology? A sincere apology?
throooowaaaayt OP says:
None from my sister or niece so far, my BIL was very apologetic though, even called me to say he was sorry, and to assure me that I will be getting my money as soon as possible.
Damn, I see why you married him.
throooowaaaayt OP responded:
Nothing sexier than a competent man.
That's a fair outcome that avoids lifetime level consequences for the niece and still stings hard enough to make the point. Communication is always a good place to start and very glad your BIL stepped up to handle the situation appropriately.
Hopefully BIL sees this as a wake-up call to get more involved in parenting, because sister is not doing a great job.
The kid wouldn't have gone to jail over this. In fact... Most likely she'd have gotten a year of supervision or so, had to answer to a social worker, and some level of restitution would have been ordered. Even for felonies.
They generally avoid putting kids in jail and anything over 3 days or so is incredibly hard to manage. (Some areas of the country may differ, but it's unlikely she lives in an area that's going to hard-line a kid into jail.) Selling the car is ironically a way tougher consequence than going to court would have been.