Information On the District Civil Court Case of Theodora Cormontan vs. the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company (Feb.-March, 1889).
George A. Arctander, of the firm Arctander and Arctander, served the Summons and Complaint to the C, M, and SP Railroad Co. on 2/21/1889.
W. H. Norris, representing the Defendant, presented an Answer to the Summons and Complaint on 2/27/89. In the Answer, Norris contends that Theodora was "guilty of gross carelessness and negligence on her own part . . ." The accident was solely her fault because "she did not attempt to board said train while it was stationary at said depot and station for the purpose of receiving and discharging passengers, but did carelessly and negligently approach said train after the same had started therefrom, and carelessly, negligently and recklessly attempted to board the said train while it was in motion away from said station and depot; That while she was so attempting, another person, not in any manner a servant, or under the authority or control of this defendant, coming hastily out of and from said train, ran against and staggered the said Plaintiff, who was then and there consequently about to fall between and under the cars of said moving train, but was then and there caught and saved from so falling by one of the servants of this Defendant, employed upon said train, without any bodily injury whatever other or further than the slight shock or strain, if any, occasioned by the facts and circumstances hereinbefore alleged."
The Complaint, filed by Pierce, Arctander & Nickell, reported that on December 3, 1887, Theodora Cormontan had purchased a ticket from the railroad to travel from Granite Falls, MN to Sacred Heart, MN. Theodora was "by the defendant invited to board and go upon a certain passenger train of said defendant." Then, after Theodora "had stepped on to the steps of one of the said coaches, but before she had reached the door of said coach, defendant well knowing that plaintiff was still ascending said steps, carelessly and negligently started said train of coaches with a violent jerk, causing the plaintiff to stagger and lose her hold on the railing attached to said steps and to lose her balance; and that the said defendant then and there by its agents and servants in charge of said train negligently, carelessly, unlawfully and violently pushed plaintiff off said train, while the same was in motion, and on to the depot platform; so that plaintiff, without any fault or negligence on her part whatsoever, fell down and struck the planks of said platform with great force and violence, and then and there . . . received serious injuries to her spine and her spinal chord [sic], and to the nerves emanating from said spinal chord. That by reason of said injuries so received as aforesaid, she has ever since said day been, and still is, suffering great pains of body and mind, and has become partly paralyzed; and plaintiff is informed and believes and so charges the fact to be, that said injuries so by her received are of a permanent nature, and that she will always be and remain sick, sore, paralyzed and lame, and that the same are incurable and permanent injuries."
The Complaint indicates that Theodora had incurred $300 in medical bills. It then continued that at the time of the injury, December 3, 1887, "this plaintiff was a music teacher by profession, and was able to earn and did earn prior to said time of being injured, in her profession, the sum of Fifty Dollars per month. That by reason of said injuries plaintiff has been wholly prevented from attending to her duties as such music teacher, or to practice her profession at all; and she is informed and believes that she will for all time to come be prevented from earning anything, either in her said profession, or otherwise, to her damage in the sum of $5,000." The complaint added an additional $20,000 request for damages, bringing the total demand against the defendant to $25,300 in addition to court costs.
The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company on 2/27/89 offered Theodora Cormontan $500 to settle out of court. The offer was apparently rejected. On March 2, 1889, Judge William Lochren ordered the case removed from District Court to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota. The same Complaint and Answer used in the District Court case appeared in the Circuit Court. On October 7, 1889 a jury found in favor of Theodora Cormontan and awarded her $5,000 in damages.