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Los Altos faces lawsuit over police-car crash

Town Crier File Photo
Los Altos resident Lisa Shaanan is suing the city for damages that resulted when a police car rear-ended her Volvo in 2012.

A Los Altos woman injured after a Los Altos Police vehicle rear-ended her car has filed a lawsuit against the city, Police Chief Tuck Younis and the police officer who crashed into her.

Lisa Shaanan and her husband, Gideon, filed a civil lawsuit Jan. 28 in Santa Clara County Superior Court claiming that she incurred lost wages and a diminished quality of life as a result of injuries sustained Aug. 20, 2012, when Los Altos Police Officer John Korges rear-ended her 1995 Volvo station wagon with his patrol car. The suit alleges that Korges crashed into Shaanan’s car at 44-45 mph “up until less than two-tenths of a second prior to impact with no effort to brake or reduce speed.”

The suit asserts that Korges was distracted by the use of a cellphone and a mobile digital communicator (MDC) device in his patrol vehicle when he rear-ended Shaanan, who was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Foothill Expressway and Arboretum Drive. The impact of the crash, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s report at the time, pushed Shaanan’s vehicle “across the intersection and into a light pole on the other side.”

The report noted that Korges claimed in a follow-up statement to sheriff’s deputies that he noticed someone illegally jogging on the opposite side of Foothill Expressway and intended to turn around and contact the individual when he looked down at his MDC for pending service calls. He then looked up from the device and was blinded by the sun before the collision occurred, the report added.

The lawsuit, however, alleges that Korges was “unfit, untrained and unsupervised in the use of on-board electronics and cellphones” while operating a police vehicle. It also claims that Younis and the city “knew or should have known” that Korges was “unqualified, unfit and lacked proper training to operate a police vehicle while simultaneously expected to and in fact operating electronic equipment known to be a distraction.”

Reached by the Town Crier, Younis and Los Altos City Manager Marcia Somers declined to comment on the case. Attempts to reach Korges – placed on leave following the accident – were unsuccessful.

“It’s city policy not to comment on pending litigation,” Somers noted.

Lawsuit allegations

Shaanan family attorney Ross Libenson, meanwhile, told the Town Crier that “it’s an important case because distracted driving is a real problem,” but declined to comment further.

Shaanan – a pediatric occupational therapist at the time of the accident – and her husband are seeking relief for emotional distress, pain and suffering and “past and future economic damages including, but not limited to, lost earnings, impairment of future earning capacity, impairment and diminution of professional development, (the) loss of home services” as well as past and future medical expenses, according to the legal filing.

The lawsuit states that she continues “to experience serious physical and emotional injuries including but not limited to a traumatic brain injury with post-concussive syndrome,” leading to memory retention and concentration problems, nausea, fatigue, severe headaches and an inability to control emotional responses, among other medical issues. The filing also notes that Shaanan sustained “bulging and protruding discs in the spine,” causing nerve impingement and severe pain.

The Shaanans filed the lawsuit after submitting an injury claim in February 2013 and later entering into a tolling agreement – which waives the right to claim that litigation should be dismissed because of an expired statute of limitations – with the city in August 2013. A subsequent Jan. 7 mediation session between attorneys for the Shaanans and the city, however, “failed to resolve the plaintiffs’ claims,” the lawsuit noted. The following day, attorneys for the Shaanans terminated the tolling agreement, paving the way for the civil lawsuit filing less than three weeks later.

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