Verdict during pandemic in disputed-liability rear-ender. $253K. Orange County.


Jury trial held after court reopens during pandemic. Soft-tissue injury to neck leads to claim of tinnitus; liability and causation disputed.


The Case

  • Case Name: Nevarez v. Brutoco
  • Court and Case Number: Orange County / 30-2019-01055888
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, October 14, 2020
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, March 06, 2019
  • Type of Case: Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto, Vehicles – rear-ender
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Layne Melzer
  • Plaintiffs:
    Francisca Nevarez, 48, housewife.
  • Defendants:
    Marcus Brutoco
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $253,453.63
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: $13,453.63  (Stipulated) 

    Future medical: $20,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past non-economic: $20,000

    Future non-economic: $200,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 1/2 hours.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Bisnar|Chase by Tom G. Antunovich, Newport Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Michael Maguire & Associates by Juan C. Delgado, Costa Mesa.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kendall Wagner, M.D., orthopedics.

    Howard Mango, Ph.D., Au.D., audiology.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Hamid Djalilian, M.D., otolaryngology/ENT.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Christopher Wilhelm, MSME, accident reconstruction.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Jesse Wobrock, Ph.D., accident reconstruction/biomechanics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On January 11, 2018, plaintiff was driving on MacArthur Blvd. to Fashion Island shopping mall. The accident occurred on MacArthur Blvd. near the 73 freeway exit. Plaintiff's vehicle was rear-ended by defendant's vehicle. Causation of crash was disputed. Police did not go to the scene and there were no eyewitnesses.


  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that she was driving straight in the #3 lane at 45 miles per hour when she was rear-ended by defendant. 

    Plaintiff contended that defendant was driving too fast, following too closely and/or not paying attention. Also, that as a result of the car accident she suffered a musculoligamentous injury to her neck. Further, that as a result of the whiplash injury, she suffered hearing loss and tinnitus in her left ear.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant contended that he was not at fault for the car accident because plaintiff was in an exit-only lane, slammed on her brakes and steered into the #3 lane, directly in front of him, cutting him off.

    Further, that he was not responsible for plaintiff's hearing loss and tinnitus because plaintiff did not suffer any head trauma and her airbag did not deploy during the accident. Defendant disputed causation of plaintiff's tinnitus and hearing loss, since she did not report it to any doctors until 45 days post accident.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Musculoligamentous injury to neck (cervical soft tissue, whiplash). Hearing loss and tinnitus in left ear.

    Two days after the crash plaintiff began having headaches and ringing in her left ear. She reported to the doctor eight days post-accident, complaining of neck and back pain, but not mentioning anything about her ears. Plaintiff claimed as a result of the accident she suffered a musculoligamentous injury to her neck and tinnitus and hearing loss. 

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $13,453.63
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $73,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $80,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $45,000

Additional Notes

COVID-19 notes:

Jury selection was done in a very large department. Counsel was asked to voir dire the entire panel (40 jurors) at once.

The trial was conducted with everyone required to wear masks the entire time except the witnesses because the witness stand was enclosed in plexiglass.