Kevin O'Leary, the lawyer who has filed a class action lawsuit against the British Government and others for the 1845-49 Great Irish Potato Famine, is now himself being sued. The Society for Justice for Chicago has filed suit in Cook County Superior Court against O'Leary, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Fire Department, and others for damages sustained during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Society claims to represent the descendants of those who lost their homes, businesses, and property in the fire and were too poor to have insurance or the means to otherwise recover their losses at the time.
Chicago Courthouse before the fire
Chicago Courthouse after the fire
The Chicago fire was perhaps the most destructive urban fire in US history. The fire raged out of control for three days in October of 1871. When it was over almost three-quarters of the city was destroyed, more than 300 people were dead, 100,000 more were left homeless, contemporary estimates placed the damages at over $200 million which would be equivalent to billions of dollars now. The fire is known to have started in or near the O'Leary barn, which stood behind their house on 137 DeKoven Street. Although official investigators never established the actual cause of the fire, popular tradition holds that Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern in that barn thereby starting the conflagration, which consumed most of Chicago.
The Society for Justice for Chicago referred this reporter to the office of Ronald J Fullem of the law firm Fullem & Fleasom. Mr. Fullem stated that the suit is based on the following facts: 1) due to the negligence of Mrs. Katherine O'Leary, the cow did indeed kick over a lantern thereby starting the inferno: 2) the Chicago FD was sluggish in its response to the blaze thereby allowing it to get out of hand: 3) the city of Chicago and other firms did not provide relief for poorer people of Chicago who lost everything in the blaze. Since the suit is pending, Mr. Fullem declined to elaborate on what proof he has to sustain his allegations, but he stated that it was convincing and incontrovertible.
Mrs. O'Leary's Cow
Mr. O'Leary categorically denies the charges. He pointed out that his great great grandparents were not the only residents at 137 DeKoven. The front half of the house was rented out to lodgers who were having a drunken party on the night of the fire. He also points out that although the O'Leary house survived the fire, the barn was lost along with the livestock, 3 cows and two geese, housed therein. This loss crippled the O'Leary dairy business at the time, leaving them among those poor unfortunates who lost their livelihood as a result of the fire. He also states that official suspicion at the time and since has focused more on the drunken revelers who shared the house on DeKoven with the O'Leary's. He also goes on to say that ultimately, in spite of the popularity and endurance of the myth of Mrs. O'Leary's cow, it is generally accepted as being false.
A spokesman for the city of Chicago simply stated that representatives of the mayor were in contact with Mr. Fullem and that a suitable offer had been made.
Mr. Fullem refused comment on the statement by the mayor's office. However, an unnamed source in the office of Fullem & Fleasom confirmed that the allegations against the City of Chicago and the Chicago FD had been dropped. This unnamed source also promised that Mr. Fullem had in his possession the broken lamp from the O'Leary barn, a charred cowbell from the cow that kicked the lamp, and eyewitness testimony provided by paranormal expert, Madame Sophia LaRouge.