Vosburg v. Putney: 1890
A Kick Rebounds
On February 20, 1889, after the noon recess had ended and the school bell rang, the seventh-grade class at the Union School took their seats. George, just shy of 12, and Andrew, now fifteen, sat across an aisle from one another and, just before the class was to begin, George swung his leg across the aisle and with his foot touched Andrew's injured leg below the knee. Whether George was standing or sitting, and whether he tapped Andrew lightly or kicked him, will never be known for sure. In any case, Andrew said nothing at the moment. It was not until some minutes later that Andrew burst into tears and had to be let out of the classroom.
By the time he left for home that day, Andrew was limping, and the next day he was in too much pain to remain at school. A few days later, after the condition of Andrew's leg had worsened and he was bedridden with fever, Dr. Joshua Bacon was called. Following a house call, Dr. Bacon called in Dr. Solon Marks from Milwaukee and Dr. Hugo Philler from Waukesha to consult. Dr. Philler became one of Andrew's primary care physicians.
By March 8, Drs. Bacon and Philler agreed that Andrew required surgery, which they performed while Andrew was etherized. On March 15, a second operation was performed, this time with the assistance of Dr. Benjamin Jacob. After cutting into the leg, the doctors expected to scrape the bone. Instead, they found the bone had decayed so drastically that to do so would have crumbled it. Only the pleading of Andrew's father, Seth, saved Andrew from amputation during this second operation.
It appeared that Andrew would be crippled for life. Having lost the labor of their eldest son and too poor to cover the mounting medical expenses, the Vosburgs retained Timothy Ryan and Ernst Merton, local law partners. The Putneys had in fact offered to reimburse the Vosburgs for the medical bills but Seth Vosburg felt that the sum was insufficient. Who first proposed it was never made known, but the Vosburgs decided to bring both a criminal suit and a civil action against George Putney.