Disputed injuries after low-impact rear-ender. $60K jury verdict. Alameda County.


This MIST case resulted in a verdict that included $32,000 in non-economic damages.  Both sides had expert testimony from bio-mechanical engineers.

The Case

  • Case Name: Eric R. Harbison v. Melisssa Johnson-Scranton
  • Court and Case Number: Alameda County Superior Court / RG13690747
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, March 26, 2015
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, August 06, 2013
  • Type of Case: MIST (Minor impact, soft tissue), Vehicles - Freeway
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Stephen Kaus
  • Plaintiffs:
    Eric Ricard Harbison, 47, legal marketing executive
  • Defendants:
    Melissa Johnson-Scranton
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $60,300
  • Net Verdict or Award: $60,300
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 0
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical expenses: $11,153

    Future medical expenses: $6,000

    Past wage loss: $10,685

    Future lost wages: $0


  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past pain and suffering: $28,295

    Future pain and suffering: $4,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day.
  • Jury Polls: 10 - 2
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Pending

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Offices of Anthony C. Deichler by Anthony C. Deichler, San Ramon.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Philip Andersen & Associates by Sierra Arballo, Pleasanton.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Santi Rao, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Concord.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Dave Atkin, M.D., orthopedic surgery, San Francisco.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Winthrop Smith Ph.D., accident reconstruction, biomechanics, Livermore.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Louis Cheng, Ph.D., accident reconstruction, biomechanics, Alameda.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant driver rearended plaintiff's stopped vehicle.  Liability was admitted by the defendant at the start of trial. Both plaintiff and defendant's biomechanical experts testified to an 18-24 mph impact speed and a delta v of 10-13 mph. It was acknowledged that the impact could cause some injury to plaintiff but the defense medical expert testified that there were only minor soft-tissue neck and back injuries, whereas the plaintiff's medical expert testified to a permanent injury to plaintiff's spine.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant rear-ended plaintiff's stopped vehicle at about 20 mph in a moderate-force collision, causing plaintiff to suffer soft-tissue neck and back injuries and aggravating an unknown pre-existing condition of arthritis in plaintiff's spine, leading to an onset of DISH (diffuse isopathic skeletal hyperostosis) or calcification in plaintiff's spine. That these injuries caused plaintiff to suffer chronic pain, stiffness and loss of range of motion and flexibility.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff suffered, at most, soft-tissue cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine strain/sprain injuries which should have resolved within 6 months. Also, that plaintiff’s wage-loss claims were speculative and not supported by the evidence.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    DISH (diffuse isopathic skeletal hyperostosis) or calcification in plaintiff's spine. That these injuries caused plaintiff to suffer chronic pain, stiffness and loss of range of motion and flexibility.

    Plaintiff had $11,150 in paid or owed (Howell) medical expenses for treatment of his spinal complaints following the subject accident. He also had ongoing pain and stiffness in his thoracic spine which limited his ability to engage in physical activities and enjoy life after the accident.

    Plaintiff had to defer starting a new job for 6 weeks due to his injuries, resulting in lost wages of $5,200. He also had lost earnings of about $3,150 a year for 3 years (from the date of the accident to trial) due to his inability to continue working as a youth basketball referee after the accident.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $11,150
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $2,000 a year for the next 30 years.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $14,350
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $3,150 a year for the next 2 years.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: Plaintiff made an initial CCP 998 demand for $125,000 prior to mediation and a second CCP 998 offer for $95,000 after mediation.
  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $92,000 (per defense counsel).
  • Defendant §998 Offer: Defendant offered $7,000 at an August 2014 mediation and $8,200 by CCP 998 offer 10 days before trial.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $72,000 (per defense counsel). Per plaintiff's counsel: made orally by defense counsel on the first day of trial.