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Former federal judge Murphy enters appearance in barge worker’s injury case

By Record News | May 12, 2016

BENTON – Former U.S. district judge Patrick Murphy of Marion has joined Roy Dripps of Maryville in preparing for trial of a barge worker’s injury claim against his employer. 

Murphy entered an appearance for Anthony Miskel of St. Louis County on May 2, three months ahead of a bench trial before District Judge Staci Yandle. 

Dripps didn’t know on May 2 whether he would represent Miskel at trial, because defendant SCF Lewis & Clark Marine has moved to disqualify him. 

Yandle sealed the motion, but further pleadings show that Courtney Stirrat of Dripps’s firm formerly represented the company in similar cases.    

Stirrat entered an appearance for Miskel last year but withdrew a day after SCF Lewis & Clark Marine moved to disqualify the firm. 

Dripps has stayed on the case, arguing that the conflict didn’t extend to him. 

As of May 9, Yandle had not ruled on the motion. 

Dripps filed Miskel’s suit in 2014, against Beelman River Terminals and SCF Lewis & Clark Marine. 

Dripps wrote that in 2012, at a Beelman dock on the Mississippi River at Venice, a barge moved in a way that caused a cable to strike Miskel in the face. 

Each defendant answered by filing a cross claim against the other. 

Last October, Yandle set trial for May 16. 

Stirrat did not participate in a Dec. 3 settlement conference. 

She filed a second appearance on Dec. 15. 

SCF Lewis & Clark Marine moved to disqualify the firm on Jan. 25, and Stirrat moved to withdraw on Jan. 26. 

Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson held a hearing on Feb. 10, for Dripps and SCF Lewis & Clark Marine counsel Daryl Sohn of St. Louis. 

Wilkerson asked for briefs on Feb. 19. 

On Feb. 17, Miskel and Beelman River Terminals filed joint motions to dismiss their dispute and approve a $35,000 settlement of Miskel’s claims. 

They attached a release that Miskel signed on Feb. 4, stating he would defend and indemnify Beelman River Terminals. 

On Feb. 19, Dripps moved to compel production of records from SCF Lewis & Clark Marine relating to the disqualification motion. 

He claimed Sohn knew of Stirrat’s involvement in November but timed the motion to influence settlement discussions. 

On Feb. 26, Sohn wrote that the November notice was unclear. 

Sohn wrote that he began an investigation after Stirrat posted the second notice, and that he began drafting a motion on Jan. 7. 

He wrote that he didn’t respond on a knee jerk basis due to the sensitivity of a disqualification motion. 

On March 1, he wrote that SCF Lewis & Clark Marine did not join the motion to approve the settlement. 

He wrote that the motion failed to specifically address which part of his client’s cross claim the settlement would extinguish. 

He further wrote that SCF Lewis & Clark Marine “will be obligated to pay only such percentage of plaintiff’s damages that is proportionate to the degree of fault, if any, attributed to SCF Lewis & Clark at trial.” 

Wilkerson denied approval of the settlement without prejudice on April 22, finding the motion premature. 

On April 25, three weeks before the trial date, Yandle delayed it to Aug. 29. 

On April 28, she entered an order dismissing Beelman River Terminals as defendant in Miskel’s claim but not as cross defendant. 

On the same date Sohn pleaded for a later trial due to a schedule conflict. 

Rather than delay trial, Yandle advanced it to Aug. 1. 

Murphy stepped into the case on May 2, representing Miskel. 

Beelman River Terminals counsel John Fox of St. Louis moved to withdraw on May 5, writing that there was no need for separate counsel.

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