Henry McDougal, who practiced in Daviess County, northeast of Kansas City, not only sued James and his brother, Frank, but also obtained a judgment, collected and lived to tell the tale, The Kansas City Star reported Monday.
Jim Muehlberger is the Kansas City lawyer who uncovered the documents detailing the litigation.
"It’s an example of equal justice under the law," Muehlberger said. "The criminal justice system would be completely unable to deal with Jesse James for about 10 years. But here the system worked, in a civil case, through the courage of a very young lawyer."
In January 1870, McDougal, then 25, sued Jesse and Frank James, seeking compensation for a mare, saddle and bridle the brothers stole at gunpoint following a deadly bank heist.
The owner of the horse estimated his loss to be at about $223.50.
The James brothers retained an attorney and the legal battle lasted 21 months before it was resolved.