The Madison County Record May 29, 2014, 10:21am

Marion lawyer Patrick Murphy withdrew from a $4 million injury suit he filed for a trucker in the federal court where he presided as judge for 15 years.

He filed notice in U.S. District Court on May 21 that he would no longer appear for plaintiff Robert Scott Hill of Kevil, Ky.

His wife, Patricia Murphy, entered her appearance for Hill on May 22.

Patrick, who retired as district judge in December, filed Hill’s suit on April 25, alleging that another trucker, John Harp of Pulaski County, caused a collision that injured Hill in 2011.

Murphy claimed $1 million in actual damages and $3 million in punitive damages.

Four days earlier, Murphy and Murphy had shut down a similar suit that Massac County Circuit Judge Joe Jackson had set for trial this September.

Murphy and Murphy switched courts while Jackson deliberated their motion to amend Hill’s complaint and assert punitive damages.

Jackson held a hearing on the motion in February, in his chambers, with no court reporter taking a transcript.

According to the lawsuit, as Hill hauled grain down a gentle grade on Illinois Route 169, Harp approached the highway on a local road in an empty coal truck.

Harp missed a stop sign in the fog. He braked and tried to turn left, but his rig skidded across Route 169 and partially jackknifed, with the cab in a ditch and the rear on the road.

Hill hit his brakes but struck the rear of Harp’s truck.

State police ticketed Harp for disobeying the stop sign, and he paid a fine of $125.

According to the suit that Patricia Murphy filed in Massac County a year later, Hill sustained painful and permanent orthopedic and neurological injuries.

She claimed his injuries prevented him from earning his usual income and diminished his ability to earn money in the future.

The case stayed quiet until last Oct. 9, when the truckers deposed each other.

Harp said the police report said he struck Hill. Harp said in his deposition, “That did not happen.”

Patricia Murphy asked him if Hill’s truck hit the back of his truck, and he said yes.

He denied skidding 286 feet and said he doubted that Hill skidded 486 feet. He said such a skid would blow the tires off a loaded truck.

Harp said his own trailer hit him. “It shoved the door in on me,” he said.

He said he broke three ribs.

Hill said in his deposition that, “I left a lot of black marks, standing on my brakes, to keep from wiping the middle of his trailer out.”

“There wasn’t enough room for me to go around him either way,” Hill said.

“I’m not 100 percent sure on how far skid marks I left.”

Harp’s lawyer, Michael Doerge of Harrisburg asked if he agreed that he struck Harp’s truck. Hill said, “Yes, I guess so.”

Patrick Murphy entered his appearance at a case management conference on Dec. 12, eleven days after retiring as judge.

Doerge won the day’s only contest when Jackson allowed him to plead that Hill’s negligence contributed to the accident.

Doerge argued that Hill crossed the center line, entered the intersection at greater than reasonable speed, and failed to decrease his speed to avoid the accident.

On Jan. 2, Patrick Murphy moved to assert punitive damages.

Murphy wrote that Harp knew the location and layout of the intersection, because he had driven through it about 50 times.

He wrote that Harp left 275 feet of skid marks.

Murphy and Murphy filed Hill’s medical bills on Feb. 24, asking Harp to admit that they added up to about $136,000.

On Feb. 27, for the hearing on punitive damages, Hoerge wrote that Harp’s conduct was not willful and wanton.

He wrote that neither driver claimed to be driving at high speed.

Murphy and Murphy filed another request for admission in March, with new medical bills raising the total to about $165,000.

On March 14, facing a deadline to answer a request for admissions from Harp, Murphy and Murphy asked for an extension due to Hill’s bad back.

On March 25, Jackson extended the deadline to April 22.

On April 21, Doerge answered the request for admissions about Hill’s medical bills with a statement that Harp lacked education to know whether the bills were necessary.

Doerge wrote, “The defendant does acknowledge that there appears to be a dispute among physicians that the plaintiff has seen as to whether or not surgery was necessary.”

He reserved the right to retain an expert on causation and necessity.

On the same day, Murphy and Murphy moved to dismiss Hill’s suit.

Jackson dismissed it the next day.

Patrick Murphy filed a new suit for Hill in federal court on April 25, without Patricia’s name on the complaint.

Hill claimed $1 million in actual damages and $3 million in punitive damages.

Chief District Judge David Herndon assigned the suit to District Judge Michael Reagan.

On May 21, Patrick Murphy bowed out in favor of Patricia Murphy.

Harp faces a July 7 deadline to answer the complaint.

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