Seeking $20,000 for Injuries Received in Auto Collision

Leon Horey, the son of Edward and Fannie (Barrow) Horey, and Amy Merrill, the daughter of William and Frances (Nelson) Merrill, were married on April 3, 1907 in Fredonia, New York; friends and family arranged a surprise party for the couple’s 26th wedding anniversary in 1933, complete with card games and prizes (Amy’s favorite game was pinohcle, and she and her cousins would play cards every time they met up). Years later, as their sons were entering the Air Corps or the Seabees and their daughters were starting school or marrying local soldiers, Leon and his brother, Nelson, were involved in a serious automobile collision.

1937 Car

“FREDONIA RESIDENT INJURED IN BUFFALO” was the headline in the local newspaper on the morning of May 31, 1938. “L. E. Horey of Green Street is in the Deaconess Hospital, Buffalo, suffering from injuries received in an automobile accident at Landon and Wohlers Streets, Buffalo, Monday noon. He has some broken ribs and other chest injuries. Just how serious his injuries are will not be determined until after x-rays are taken today.

Leon Horey2

He was riding with his brother, Nelson Horey, of Buffalo, at whose home he and Mrs. Horey were spending the weekend. Also in the car was his son-in-law, Charles Livermore of Warren, PA. Nelson Horey was driving. The party was returning from Niagara Falls when another car came out of a side street and hit the left rear fender, shoving the Horey car against a tree and a pole and damaging the right side of the car. It was on that side that L. E. Horey was riding.”

Two years later, on February 5, 1940, Leon died at home after a “long illness” that Amy attributed to the car accident in 1938. She brought suit against Nelson Horey, the driver at the time of the crash, and Benjamin and Phillip Schrutt, the drivers of the vehicle that crashed into the Horey’s car, for negligence. William Cease, Nelson’s employer, was made a party to the action, it being contended that Nelson was on company business at the time of the collision. Amy, the administrator of her husband’s estate, asked for $20,000 for the injuries that Leon received in the accident and that ultimately, she argued, resulted in his death at 55 years old.

The trial reached the state Supreme Court, and a number of individuals took the stand to testify, including William Cease, Archie LaBelle, Charles Livermore, Benjamin Fan, Phillip Shrutt, Edwin Dietrich, Dr. Albert Allison and Dr. Benjamin Custer. The outcome? After six hours of deliberation, the jury “awarded” Amy a total of $3,200 “for the death of her husband.” The family was devastated to lose Leon: Leon’s and Amy’s children were growing up, moving out and starting their own lives, and they would have loved to have their father there. Everyone was glad, though, that the jury recognized the negligence on the part of Nelson Horey and the Shrutt brothers, and that Amy had some money to support herself for many years to come. My only question is: why wasn’t it more? I guess I’ll keep searching. 

9 thoughts on “Seeking $20,000 for Injuries Received in Auto Collision

  1. Your stories are so interesting! Lawsuits are a real tangle. I’m also wondering about a suit that the plaintiff “won,” but the award was so tiny it makes me wonder, too. It’s almost like a slap in the face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely–and how much was Leon’s life worth, you know? I can’t imagine suing my brother-in-law, but at the same time, shouldn’t she have received more? This is one of the more painful family stories, for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

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