Hearing in case of pediatrician suing city of Bakersfield

It will be up to a jury to decide if a Bakersfield police officer and an Emergency Medical Technician from Hall Ambulance caused a local pediatrician to suffer permanent brain damage after a car crash.
It will be up to a jury to decide if a Bakersfield police officer and an Emergency Medical Technician from Hall Ambulance caused a local pediatrician to suffer permanent brain damage after a car crash. The family of Dr. Mohammad Harb says he never recovered after an officer refused to get him medical help following a car accident five years ago.

At a hearing Monday afternoon, Judge J. Eric Bradshaw ruled that evidence suggesting Harb wasn't taking his blood pressure medication before the crash can be admitted.

The case involves Harb, the city of Bakersfield, and Hall Ambulance. Harb is suing the Bakersfield Police Department after he suffered a stroke in 2007 and wrecked his car. Harb's attorney says his client was denied care because officers thought he was drunk.

Police have filed a counter suit, saying the ambulance company is to blame.

Once known for his compassion in the Pediatric Intensive Care unit, lawyers say Harb is now the one being cared for around the clock.

"Dr. Harb is bound to a wheelchair. He cannot clothe himself. He cannot bathe himself. He cannot go to the bathroom by himself," said Thomas Brill, Harb's attorney.

Brill says Officer Claudia Payne thought Harb was drunk at the time of the crash and turned away paramedics.

"Officer Payne followed every step for the protection of Dr. Harb. There's nothing that the Bakersfield Police Department did or Officer Payne did that has created this outcome," said Mick Marderosian, the City of Bakersfield's attorney.

"Our medical testimony is going to be, it really didn't make a difference whether he was 15 minutes late to the hospital," said James Braze, Mayor Harvey Hall's attorney.

"It's very clear from the medical record, as time goes by, he's getting worse and worse and worse," said Brill.

Harb's attorney says its important for Mayor Harvey Hall, who also owns Hall Ambulance, to testify.

"To be blunt, I think it's a publicity stunt," said Braze. "It's also a fishing expedition because this case has been pending for at least four years, and at no time was Mayor Hall asked to give a deposition."

Brill planned on questioning Officer Payne's credibility during the trial. In 2006, Payne admitted she lied to Sheriff's Deputies when she reported her friend's $6,500 horse stolen. She later admitted to selling it.

"To say that has affected her credibility goes beyond the realm of decency, so this trial is going to clarify that issue as well," said Marderosian.

But, Judge Bradshaw ruled Monday that Payne's prior incident with the horse will not be admitted in the trial.

The pre-trial hearing will continue Tuesday. The judge is expected to decide whether Mayor Hall will have to testify during the trial. Jury selection could begin as early as Wednesday. The trial is scheduled to begin in early December and could last five or six weeks.

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