Defense rear-ender verdict after prior WC incident with back pain discovered. Los Angeles County.


Truck driver says his injury/surgery resulted from on-the-job rear-ender, but defendant says it was due to an earlier injury.

The Case

  • Case Name: Green v. JBI, LLC
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC561159
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, October 06, 2016
  • Type of Case: Vehicles – rear-ender
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Lawrence Cho
  • Plaintiffs:
    Benjamin Green, 35
  • Defendants:
    JBI, LLC
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 11 days.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Douglas F. Walters, APC by Douglas F. Walters, San Diego.

    England, Ponticello & St. Clair by Kristina M. Pfeifer, San Diego. (Intervenor.)

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Demler Armstrong & Rowland, LLP by Terry A. Rowland, Long Beach.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Jeffrey Gross, M.D., neurosurgery, Orange County.

    Robert Hall, vocational rehabilitation, Los Angeles.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Geoffrey Miller, M.D., orthopedics, El Segundo.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Brian Brinig, economics, Los Angeles.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    David King, accident reconstruction, Laguna Hills.

    John Brault, biomechanics, Mission Viejo.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff Benjamin Green, 35, was rear-ended in his employer’s tanker truck by the delivery truck of defendant JBI. There were no immediate complaints at the scene and both drivers left after exchanging information.

    Five days later plaintiff began treating, and soon afterwards an MRI was obtained showing a 5mm protrusion at L5/S1. This led to a fusion a year later, then a second operation to remove the hardware. Medical expenses (paid by Worker's Comp) were $179,000, plus disability of $141,593. 

    Plaintiff, his ex-wife, two former employees and two witnesses from his last job all testified that he was an extremely hard worker and great employee. They said he had no complaints of back pain for many years before the rear-ender and that he tried repeatedly to return to work but was in too much pain.

    Defendants discovered a 2003 Worker's Comp injury with back pain for which Green treated for a year and was disabled from heavy labor. He received vocational rehabilitation for that claim, but continued to work in construction. Plaintiff described the prior injury as minor with no residuals.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That subject accident was the cause of injury and back pain.

    Plaintiff’s expert Dr. Gross testified that the impact aggravated plaintiff’s “unusually susceptible” spine (eggshell plaintiff) and that the absence of any complaints for 6 years since his work injury made the subject 2013 collision a substantial factor in causing both new and renewed symptoms.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant argued no causation from minor impact and that any injuries were limited to short term soft tissue. 

    Defendants’ experts testified that the impact was minor, that plaintiff’s prior back injury was identical to his current claim and that at most he suffered a strain requiring a few months of therapy.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $179,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $150,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $149,593
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $642,197

Additional Notes

Plaintiff:          998 for $1,099,999 to defendants.

Intervenor:      998 for $195,000 to defendants

Defendants:   998 for $200,000 to plaintiff.

Defendants:   998 for $50,000 to intervenor.

Plaintiff moved for new trial or additur and defendant also moved for JNOV or a remittitur.  The court ruled that $10,000 would be added to past pain and suffering only and defendant agreed.  Plaintiff and the comp carrier are to divide the judgment per the Labor Code.  No 998 costs were awarded due to the court’s inability to determine which plaintiff got what because all parties made separate 998 offers.