Case details

Rear-ender caused neck and back injuries, plaintiff alleged





Result type

Not present

back, head, headaches, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On Aug. 20, 2011, at approximately 5 p.m., plaintiff Donald Maurer, 51, a retired veteran with a heart condition, was stopped in traffic on northbound Interstate 5, in San Clemente, when he was rear-ended by a pickup truck operated by Benjamin Oliver-Swanson. Maurer claimed to his neck and back. Maurer sued Mr. Oliver-Swanson and an alleged registered owner of the pickup truck, Elizabeth Oliver-Swanson, Mr. Oliver-Swanson’s mother. Maurer alleged that Mr. Oliver-Swanson was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Ms. Oliver-Swanson was vicariously liable for her son’s actions. Ms. Oliver-Swanson was ultimately found not to be a registered owner of the pickup. Thus, she was dismissed from the case prior to trial. Mr. Oliver-Swanson claimed that while slowing for traffic, he looked to the left at the ocean for a few seconds and that when he looked back, he noticed traffic had abruptly stopped, prompting him to slam on his brakes. Thus, he claimed he could not stop his vehicle in time to avoid an impact with the left rear of Maurer’s Mercedes., Maurer was taken by ambulance to an emergency room with complaints of neck pain and headaches. He underwent a CT scan, which was negative, and was released. Maurer then followed up at his VA hospital on Sept. 14, 2011, complaining of ongoing neck pain and headaches. He claimed his back pain began shortly after the accident and he was referred to Encompass Medical Group, who then referred him to La Mesa Rehab, where he received four months of physical therapy. Maurer later received more physical therapy at the VA Hospital and a myelogram for his lower back. Maurer claimed that the pain to his back, both at the thoracic and lumbar levels, continues to radiate into his buttocks and legs. He also claimed that a wire in his pacemaker became dislodged during the accident and that he deals with intermittent neck and back pain. Maurer alleged that spinal surgery was recommended, but that he could not pursue surgery due to his heart condition. Thus, he claimed he would have to live with the pain for the rest of his life. He alleged that he can no longer walk farther than a half-mile, bowl, fish or do any other activities due to his condition and that he still treats at the VA Hospital. Maurer sought recovery of $525,000 in general damages only. He did not present special damages at trial. Defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of Maurer’s alleged and damages. Counsel argued that Maurer suffers from pre-existing, degenerative changes in his spine and that Maurer only suffered a neck strain from the subject accident. Defense counsel also argued that other than the initial emergency room visit and some physical therapy, Maurer’s treatment was unnecessary and unreasonable. Counsel further disputed anything related to Maurer’s back, which counsel argued was not injured in the subject accident.
Superior Court of Orange County, Santa Ana, CA

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