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Anguish Over Severing of Man's Legs Claimed : Crew Sues Protester Hit by Train

January 12, 1988|Associated Press

MARTINEZ, Calif. — An anti-war demonstrator who lost both legs after being run over by a Navy train during a weapons protest was sued by the train's civilian operators, who claim they suffered mental anguish over the accident.

The suit, filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages from S. Brian Willson, two other protesters and Nuremberg Actions, which has sponsored a series of protests at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

On Sept. 1, Willson and the two other protesters sat on railroad tracks outside the weapons depot in an attempt to block alleged arms shipments to Central America.

A train leaving the base ran over Willson. He suffered a fractured skull and eventually lost both legs below the knee. The other demonstrators, Duncan Murphy and David Duncombe, leaped aside and escaped injury.

Filing the suit against Willson and the others last Friday were conductor Ralph Dawson of Vallejo, engineer David Humiston of Antioch and brakeman Robert Mayfield of Vacaville. In their suit, the three accuse the demonstrators of intending to stop the train by allowing it to hit them with conscious disregard to the operators' rights and feelings.

They seek compensation for humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress and loss of earnings.

Willson was out of town on Monday and could not be reached for comment.

But one of his lawyers, Tom Steel of San Francisco, called the lawsuit "outrageous."

"I think it's the most cruel and insensitive legal maneuver I've seen in some time," Steel said.

Steel said investigations by the Navy, Contra Costa Sheriff's Department and Willson's lawyers all found that the Navy never attempted to stop the train.

"They ran right over the man, they cut off his legs, and now--after leaving him a cripple for life--they want him to pay them money," he said.

Steel said he and other lawyers for Willson were preparing to file a claim against the Navy, asking that the Navy be held responsible for the incident, compensate Willson for his loss and pay his medical expenses.

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