CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Matt Clendenin showing jurors a picture of his client's bumper while delivering his closing argument
San Diego, CA - A California state court jury awarded $10,013 on August 5th to a woman injured in a minor rear-impact fender bender, and the three-day trial was recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
The San Diego County jury awarded the money to plaintiff Hilda Marie Salvado following a trial limited only to potential damages after defendant Pedro Marin’s insurance carrier, Fred Loya, admitted liability for the five mile-per-hour collision at an intersection in 2018 that caused Salvado’s injuries.
Salvado’s attorney, Matt Clendenin of The Clendenin Firm, asked jurors to award nearly $80,000 as compensation largely for a supposed tendon injury in Salvado’s elbow that could eventually require surgery, in addition to shorter-term whiplash injuries to her neck and back.
Salvado owns and operates a home healthcare service and testified at trial that her elbow injury limited her ability to deliver in-person care and reduced her quality of life in general.
Marin’s attorney, Lili Jalali, argued the minor accident did not injure Salvado’s elbow and that the damages she claimed were “exaggerated.”
Clendenin told CVN after the trial the jury’s verdict far surpasses Fred Loya’s initial pre-trial settlement offer of $1,000, later upped to $5,000 at the start of trial. Clendenin said he filed a pre-trial settlement demand of $25,000.
“The insurance company was just absolutely blackballing this one and not offering anything,” he said, noting the challenges of a case involving no property damage. The collision barely left any visible dents in the cars.
Clendenin attributed the defense’s low settlement offers to the fact actual jury trials related to minor fender benders are rare events.
“A little fender bender where someone gets banged up, they still deserve a fair amount of money from these insurance companies, but the insurance company knows that nobody tries these cases so they just offer beans,” Clendenin said.
The full trial cost Clendenin roughly $10,000 to put on, an extremely lean budget for a full jury trial that Clendenin attributes to a reliance on treating physicians instead of “hired gun” medical experts.
“On a smaller case in order to keep your costs efficient I think you’ve got to stick with just the treating doctors,” Clendenin said.
Clendenin said jurors told him after the trial that no amount of medical testimony would convince them the low-impact collision caused Salvado’s elbow injury. He said the jurors limited their damages to the head and neck whiplash injuries from which Salvado largely recovered following the accident.
During the trial Jalali argued for the defense that Salvado’s elbow injuries were easily attributed to years of repetitive stress and could not be definitively linked to a brief five mile-per-hour rear impact.
Jalali did not respond to a request for comment.
Clendenin said he has no regrets taking the case to trial despite the jury awarding less than he asked for.
“When the insurance company admits that it was their fault, they admit that they hurt your client and then they offer you beans to settle, you have to try these cases as a matter of principle,” he said.
Clendenin encouraged younger attorneys to take smaller cases like this to trial to gain valuable experience, arguing that accepting even the increased $5,000 settlement offer would have made him look weak to his client.
“The client loses all faith in you,” he said. “They view you as just as bad as the insurance company.”
CVN covered the full trial as part of its commitment to gavel-to-gavel video coverage of “real world” trials that may not usually draw media scrutiny but are still newsworthy events for the legal community.
Click here to read more about CVN’s ongoing coverage of “real world” trials, and click here to get access to the hundreds of trials, from historic bellwethers to everyday slip-and-falls, in CVN’s online trial video library.
The trial took place before Judge Eddie Sturgeon.
The case is captioned Hilda Salvado v. Pedro Marin, docket number 37-2019-00021564-CU-PA-CTL in San Diego County Superior Court.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org