Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
After a cruiser driven by Los Altos Police Officer John Korges rear-ended Los Altos resident Lisa Shaanan’s Volvo last August, above, her attorney filed a claim against the city.
The attorney for a Los Altos resident rear-ended by a city police cruiser Aug. 20 filed an injury claim against the city last week.
The Feb. 4 claim – filed on behalf of Los Altos resident Lisa Shaanan – includes a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy report revealing that Los Altos Police Officer John Korges was traveling more than 40 mph and operating his patrol vehicle’s mobile digital communicator (MDC) when he rear-ended Shaanan’s 1995 Volvo on Foothill Expressway. The claim notes that Korges was driving 44 mph “up until less than two-tenths of a second prior to impact with no effort to brake or reduce the speed” of the patrol car. The speed limit on Foothill Expressway is 45 mph.
The sheriff’s report indicates that law enforcement officials responding to the accident did not cite Korges, despite concluding that he violated California Vehicle Code Section 22350 – operating a car at a greater than reasonable rate of speed.
In addition, the injury claim states that Korges violated the Los Altos Police Department’s policy for operating an MDC while driving and that the city and police department provided the device to Korges “without adequate training on how to do so with regard to the safety of others.”
Reached by the Town Crier, Shaanan’s attorney, Ross Libenson, said the city has 45 days to accept or reject the claim. Should the claim be rejected, Shaanan has six months to file a lawsuit against the city, he added.
A separate property damage claim filed by Shaanan was settled in December, Libenson noted.
Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis declined comment on the matter because of the pending litigation. He did, however, confirm that Korges is currently on leave from the department. Korges also declined comment when contacted by the Town Crier.
According to the sheriff’s report, Shaanan’s vehicle was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Foothill Expressway and Arboretum Drive at the time of the collision. The impact forced the Volvo across the intersection, knocking down a traffic signal post and deploying the vehicle’s airbag. Both drivers were transported to local hospitals. Shaanan’s Volvo was totaled.
The sheriff’s report includes statements by Korges claiming that he noticed someone illegally jogging on the west curb of Foothill Expressway and intended to turn around and contact the pedestrian when he glanced down at his MDC for pending service calls. Korges then stated that he looked back up from his device and was blinded by the sun just before the collision occurred.
The injury claim by Shaanan, however, contradicts Korges’ statements and accuses him of being “dishonest when he claimed that the cause of the accident was that the sun was in his eyes while driving.”
Shaanan’s claim did not specify the dollar amount she seeks, but lists more than $20,000 in medical expenses to date as a result of the collision and says she will continue to incur expenses in the future because of the nature of her injuries.
Specifically, the claim noted that Shaanan suffered “traumatic brain injury with post-concussive syndrome,” leading to memory issues, as well as fatigue, severe headaches and loss of intellectual and functional capacities, among other problems. In addition, Shaanan sustained “bulging and protruding discs in the thoracic and lumbar spine causing nerve impingement and significant and severe pain.”
Additional injuries listed in the claim include a retina hematoma and swelling – causing loss of vision – as well as bruising and disfigurement.
The claim also lists emotional injuries incurred by Shaanan, including depression, anxiety, mood swings and embarrassment “by the limitations caused by physical and emotional injuries inflicted.”
In addition, Shaanan’s claim cites that she has already and will continue to experience loss of wages as a specialist in pediatric occupational therapy, incur future medical expenses and “experience a diminution in the enjoyment of life” as a result of her injuries.