February 24, 1909: Lots of lawsuits over lost limbs—and loved ones

On this day in Duluth in 1909, the local courts announced a great many pending lawsuits that had to do with lost body parts and missing people. Novak Prizek crushed his forefinger working in a rail yard and sued the Oliver Mining Company for $1,000. Charles Cass thought his pinky was worth five times that, and sued employer Colvin-Robb Lumber Co. for $5,000 when it was removed by a shingle bolt saw. Jacob Isaacson also sued the Oliver Mining Company, but for $10,000; after all, he had lost an entire hand, not just a finger, when the tram car he was resting it on hit the top of the mine he was working in. When Rasmus Loken attempted to save gears on rigging at the Boston Coal Dock, his entire arm was drawn into the gearing; he demanded $15,000 for its loss, but asked only $250 to cover medical costs. Oliver Mining won a case that day when Joe Balego was denied his $12,000 claim for losing part of his site in a 1904 dynamite explosion in Eveleth. It seems limbs were considered more valuable than lives in 1909. Mrs. Olivia Johnson only asked for $1,999 in damages for the death of her 14-year-old son, killed by a freight train at St. Croix Avenue in 1906. Lizzier Jetsu asked the Northern Railway for $5,000 after her daughter was crushed by a train in Chisholm, the same amount Freda Carlson asked for when a West Third Street Trolley caused the death of her husband Gus. Just another day’s reporting in the times before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration….

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