Philadelphia. Jim’s theory was that hole
had been there for years, the little boy
climbed through the hole of the fence—
he never would have climbed down and
jumped on the train impulsively had it not
been for the hole in the fence. Jim’s further
theory was that the neighborhood would
have been patrolled by police officers, and
some police officer should have reported
that hole in the fence had he been doing
his duty. And so he convinced himself. He
convinced the former police commissioner
and mayor, [Frank] Rizzo, to come in and
say that. I could tell you all kinds of logic
against him doing that—like, well, there
was no police officer to tell that, and there
were a whole lot of missing links. But the
missing links were less important than the
BARBARA AXELROD, attorney, The
Beasley Firm: The family did collect
a substantial amount of money [$1.3
million] from the Reading Railroad. But
I had represented the city on appeal
and argued in the superior court that an
adjacent landowner does not have any
responsibility for a dangerous condition
on somebody else’s property. The
superior court agreed, but granted a new
trial. The [state] Supreme Court agreed
and entered judgment in the city’s favor.
[Beasley] later hired me. A few years
later, he was telling me this outrageous
story about how the appellate courts had
wronged him in the case of this child,
and got about a sentence or two into it
and stopped in his tracks.
BENNETT: He was always looking to
expand victims’ rights and protections.
These are not whiplash cases. People
were getting hurt by defective products.
Beasley’s uncompromising approach to
recreation was almost as legendary as his
LEFT: A portrait of Beasley from around the year 1960, just a few
years after he opened his firm.
RIGHT: Beasley and Beasley Jr. shared a love of flying World War II
approach to trial prep. He flew World War II
fighter planes and delighted in putting his
colleagues in the co-pilot seat.
LAURICELLA: Everybody in that firm, as
a rite of passage, would have to fly with
him at least once. There were stories. I
think he took [attorney] Bill Murphy with
him one time and flew upside down over
the Pennsylvania Turnpike, just to make
AXELROD: I have a very weak stomach. I
have thrown up going to see the Statue
of Liberty on a boat in New York harbor.
There were times I needed to fly with Mr.
Beasley because he needed to take on
cases in Scranton or Wilkes-Barre. I told
him point-blank, “Look, I have a weak
stomach, and I want you to know, if you
do anything, your suit is toast.“ He did
his best to have a fine, even flight.