A Bakersfield jury unanimously ruled Wednesday the police department and Hall Ambulance are not negligent for brain damage suffered by a local doctor who suffered a stroke five year ago. The doctor said police officers delayed his medical treatment because they thought he was drunk. The verdict came at mid-afternoon Wednesday, after less than a day of deliberations.
His family said Dr. Mohamad Harb was in a coma for two months and never will walk or practice medicine again.
It was undisputed at trial that Harb, now 62, had worked a full day as a neonatal specialist at Kern Medical Center before he crashed his car Nov. 24, 2007 on 24th Street near Oak Street.
What happened next was the focus of the trial.
Witnesses said he staggered from his Mercedes after the accident, dazed and disoriented, and vomited and urinated.
The first police officers on the scene thought he was drunk, according to reports. Officer Claudia Payne was in charge of the scene and quickly handcuffed the doctor, still dressed in hospital scrubs.
A Hall Ambulance arrived, but left, according to testimony. Witnesses said Officer Payne sent the ambulance away because she planned to take Harb to jail.
He sat on the curb, unattended, for nearly an hour, according to testimony, until a nurse he worked with at the hospital happened by, and convinced police to call another ambulance.
Harb’s attorneys said his brain damage was caused by the delay and sued, asking for $25 million.
The suit named the City of Bakersfield, Officer Payne and Hall Ambulance. All were cleared of responsibility.
Defense attorneys Michael Marderosian and Jim Braze, who won the verdict, presented medical evidence the stroke was so severe that no treatment could have saved Harb from the damage he suffered.
Marderosian’s witnesses said there was evidence Harb had suffered an earlier stroke and hadn’t been taking the medicine prescribed to him, and that may have contributed to the second stroke.
He said Harb’s attorneys hadn’t proved the actions of the officers and the ambulance attendants amounted to the kind of negligence claimed by Harb and his attorneys.
In a civil suit, a verdict can be reached when only nine jurors agree. But in this case, all 12 jurors, nine women and three men, agreed.