The Lusitania Resource > Primary Documents > Mixed Claims Commission > Docket No. 2489: John, Katherine, John Jr., Margaret, and Jeremiah Coughlin

Docket No. 2489: John, Katherine, John Jr., Margaret, and Jeremiah Coughlin

Docket No. 2489. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on behalf of Katherine Coughlin, John Coughlin, Jeremiah Bernard Coughlin, and Cornelius O’Neil, Claimants, v. GERMANY. PARKER, Umpire, rendered the decision of the Commission. This case is before the Umpire for decision on a certificate of the two National Commissioners[a] certifying their disagreement. John J. Coughlin, a naturalized American citizen, 39 years of age, and his entire family were passengers on the torpedoed Lusitania. This family consisted of a wife, Katherine, then 36 years of age, a daughter, Margaret, 3 years of age, and two sons, John and Jeremiah Bernard, whose ages are not disclosed by the record. In the passenger list of the Lusitania there appears the name “Bernard Coughlin, 11 months”. John J. Coughlin and his daughter, Margaret, were lost. This claim is put forward on behalf of the surviving widow and the two sons and also on behalf of Cornelius O’Neil, a naturalized American citizen, the brother of Katherine Coughlin. John J. Coughlin, a native of Ireland, became, through naturalization, a citizen of the United State on July 28, 1900. He married Katie (Katherine) O’Neil, also a native of Ireland, at Butte, Montana, July 20, 1905. Their three children were born at Butte, where they continued to reside until the entire family left for Ireland on the Lusitania. John J. Coughlin was employed as a miner; his wages were from $23.50 to $28.00 per week. In taking third-cabin passage on the Lusitania for himself and family Coughlin gave his residence and that of all members of his family Butte, Montana. He also gave as his and his wife’s nationality as “Irish”, but that of his three children, all of whom were born at Butte, as United States citizens. Following the sinking of the Lusitania Mrs. Coughlin and her two sons resided temporarily with her brother in Ireland, and they continue to reside in Ireland. Although apparently not living with her relatives, the latter contribute toward her support and that of her children. It appears that Mrs. Coughlin applied to the United States through the American consul at Cork to intervene in her behalf for the damages suffered by her resulting from the lost of her husband and daughter. In the report made by the American Consul to the Department of State at Washington, under date of January 24, 1916, it is stated that Coughlin “had sold out his house and belongings in Montana, with the exception of a prospect claim of which he apparently could not dispose, and was emigrating back to Ireland, his native country, with his family and belongings, including, it is stated, £400 in money and household goods worth £300.” Later it appears that Mrs. Coughlin stated that she intended to return to the United States “within an indefinite period”. In his letter to the Department of State of June 24, 1916, with respect to this case the American Consul states: “The family had patently abandoned the United States * * * from my conversations with Mrs. Coughlin before she was aware of the legal aspect of the matter it was clear that as a matter of fact there was no intention ever to return to America. Even now Mrs. Coughlin is unwilling to state definitely that she will return to the United States.” On this record the Department of State declined to approve her application to register as an American citizen before the United States Consul at Cork. She had not taken the necessary steps to retain her American citizenship through compliance with United States statutes (Section 4, Act of March 2, 1907). Coughlin had no source of income save his meager wages. The reason for his returning to Ireland with his entire family is not disclosed by the record, save as reflected by the letters of the American Consul quoted above. Mrs. Coughlin continues to reside in Ireland although nearly 10 years have passed since the sinking of the Lusitania. Notwithstanding her assertion that it is her purpose to return to America with her sons as soon as she is financially able to do so, it seems clear that she was not an American national on November 11, 1921, when the Treaty of Berlin became effective, and therefore, for the reasons announced in Administrative Decision No. V, the United States is not in a position to put forward any claim on her behalf. But her two sons, John and Jeremiah Bernard, were born in America, of American parents. On the sailing of the Lusitania their parents listed them as United States citizens. Their mother has, so far as disclosed by the record, continually claimed American citizenship for them. At their tender years the loss of their father resulted in substantial pecuniary damages to them, notwithstanding his small earning power. Cornelius O’Neil, a resident of Massachusetts, is the brother of Mrs. Coughlin and the uncle of 3-year-old Margaret Coughlin who was lost on the Lusitania. The implications from the record are that, realizing that his sister’s claim for the loss of her daughter was not impressed with the requisite American nationality to support and award by this Commission, O’Neil, who, through naturalization, possessed the requisite American citizenship, has asserted a claim on his own behalf for the damages suffered by him “by being deprived of the love and society of said Margaret and on account of the grief and shock sustained by him”, etc. His claim is wholly without merit. Applying the rules announced in the Lusitania Opinion, in Administrative Decision No. V, and in the other decisions of this Commission to the facts as disclosed by this record, the Commission decrees that under the Treaty of Berlin of August 25, 1921, and in accordance with its terms the Government of Germany is obligated to pay to the Government of the United States on behalf of (1) John Coughlin, a minor, the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500.00) and (2) Jeremiah Bernard Coughlin, a minor, the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500.00), with interest on each of said sums at the rate of five per cent per annum from November 1, 1923; and further decrees that the Government of Germany is not obligated to pay to the Government of the United States any amount on behalf of Katherine Coughlin or Cornelius O’Neil. Done at Washington January 7, 1925.


---- [a] Dated December 22, 1924.

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