You’d think it was a knock-down, drag-out fight, this court case between Patrick Phillips’ widow Mary and his employer, the Wabash Railroad. After Patrick’s sudden death at work on May 18, 1912, Mary Kelly Phillips filed suit in the Allen County circuit court the following February.
One short month later, the defendants filed for change of venue, and the case was sent to nearby Wells County.
Over a year later, the case was still grinding its way through the justice system—albeit with the occasional hiatus for celebrity defendants to give rousing speeches in exclusive settings far from humble Bluffton, Indiana.
As the case drew to a close, the newspapers picked up their chorus again—little listings of the faintest hint of news about the Phillips lawsuit. The slightest details could pad the copy and make it seem like this newspaper—be it the Journal-Gazette, the Sentinel, or the Daily News—was the one with the scoop.
Really. Does it matter that the jury deliberations started on Saturday, May ninth, at “4:30 o’clock” and didn’t end until that evening at “10:40 o’clock”?
Not like it was front page news, anyhow. It was tucked away on page thirty of The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette that we discover—the following Monday morning, May 11, 1914—that “Mrs. Phillips Gets Verdict for $8,500.”
All of last week was consumed by the Wells circuit court at Bluffton in the trial before a jury of the case of Mrs. Mary A. Phillips, administratrix of the estate of Patrick Phillips, deceased, against the receivers of the Wabash Railroad company, for damages and after deliberating from 4:30 o’clock Saturday until 10:40 o’clock Saturday night, a verdict was returned in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $8,500.Patrick Phillips was killed in the Wabash yards at Walton avenue, May 18, 1912. A suit was filed in the Allen circuit court and was venued to the Wells circuit court upon application of the receivers.Breen & Morris were attorneys for the plaintiff and Leonard, Rose & Zollars represented the receivers of the Wabash Railroad company.
On behalf of Mary, her lawyers, Breen and Morris, had won the case. While I’m not sure $8,500 is a “winning” for the price that widow had to pay, at least she now had means with which to raise her four daughters. It was a struggle that took Mary two years almost to the day to bring from start to finish.
And now, that episode in Mary’s life was over.
And the lawyers' take was ...? Not quite the $10,000 or $25,000 but something.ReplyDelete
Makes you wonder, doesn't it, Wendy? That court record is one document for sure that I will be looking up, my next visit to Fort Wayne!Delete
The Wabash Railroad itself was sold at foreclosure July 21, 1915 and reorganized October 22 as the Wabash Railway. I'm no expert with bankruptcy laws but I think this means the one business "ceased to exist" and a new company created, likely with a new set of characters running the show. What happened to the stockholders, creditors and employees of the Wabash RailROAD - I do not know.ReplyDelete
Of possible interest - the Breen of Breen and Morris was married to a Phillips...Delete
"May 27 1884 at Fort Wayne, Mr William P. Breen was united in marriage to Miss Idelia Phillips daughter of Bernard and Caroline Phillips of Fort Wayne"
Was Mary related to Idelia? hmm...
What a fascinating find, Iggy! I took some time to follow up on that one. It would be a great twist in the story...but...it appears that both Bernard and Caroline Vogel Phillips were born in Germany--not quite the Irish roots of Mary's husband's Phillips family. And here I was getting all ready to pursue some new Phillips cousins...Delete
Although...they would have been "outlaws" to my family's Kelly line. But a fun diversion for the story!
Ah, I was going to go explore this today - Seems Mr. Breen "himself" was "veddy Irish"Delete
Yes I was wondering how much Mary actually received. I'm waiting to see where you go next. "And now this episode in Mary's life is over. Almost.ReplyDelete
Ah...the power of that one lone word. "Almost."Delete
On the other hand, that is actually representing it incorrectly. That "episode" was probably never truly over for Mary. Losing her husband was something that would be part of her life for the remainder of her days. There's really no amount of money that could make up for a loss like that.
I wonder what the value of 8,500 was in 1915. I went to look it up it would equal 193,000 today. I wonder if she got her money, the court can award all the money it wants..wether or not it gets paid out is another story:(ReplyDelete
Those inflation calculators are handy, aren't they? :)Delete
It certainly would have been a sizable amount for Mary to have received. That lump sum, of course, would have to go for yearly expenses for her household of four children for several more years, plus support for Mary through the remaining years of her old age. All that, by the way, after what the attorneys took out for their services.
Not much, when you spread it all around like that.