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Couple says cheese company responsible for injuries

More than four years after a crash that they allege is still affecting them today, Kevin and Betty Peterson finally began their jury trial against Midwest Cheese, Inc. on Tuesday.

The trial is being held at the Davison County Courthouse, with Judge Patrick Smith presiding. The Petersons are represented by Michael Tobin, and Midwest Cheese is represented by Mark Arndt.

The Corsica-based cheese company has admitted that its employee, Duane Morgan, was negligent while driving on June 3, 2014, the date on which he is accused of rear-ending the Petersons' 2008 Cadillac SUV near Mitchell.

According to court documents, the crash occurred when a car in front of the Petersons stopped and the Petersons stopped behind it. Morgan then hit the plaintiffs' vehicle.

The jury selected Tuesday morning will spend the rest of the week determining whether that negligence caused injuries and other damages to the extent that the Petersons claim. The defense maintains that some of the injuries the Petersons say were caused by the crash — including severe vertigo and a shoulder injury that was surgically corrected — may have been linked to previously existing medical conditions.

The plaintiffs, from Salem, first filed a complaint against Midwest Cheese on Jan. 6, 2015. They're asserting that Morgan's negligence "breached his duty of reasonable care," according to the initial complaint, and that this resulted in their past and future medical expenses, economic harm, damage to their vehicle, fees for storing that vehicle, pain and suffering and emotional and mental distress.

The jury is tasked with determining whether or not Morgan's negligence caused what the Petersons say it did and, if so, the amount that each plaintiff should receive in damages. The defense contests not only the extent and causation of the Petersons' injuries, but also the alleged value of property damage. The defense will be presenting the plaintiffs' pre- and post-accident medical reports, information on the value and repair costs for the Petersons' car and their income tax returns.

The prosecution's exhibit list includes 29 assorted types of records from doctors, hospitals, chiropractic facilities and therapy and counseling centers. It also includes information concerning the value of the Petersons' vehicle, the cost of labor spent towing and working on the vehicle and a photo of the vehicle that allegedly stopped in front of the Petersons just before their vehicle was rear-ended.

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