Appeals court orders new trial against Bakersfield police

January 25, 2015

lawsuitA state appeals court has ordered a new trial against the Bakersfield police in the case of a man who an officer mistakenly determined was drunk when he was undergoing a medical emergency. A Grover Beach woman has made similar claims about a Pismo Beach police officer.

In 2007, Mohamad Harb, M.D. was driving home from his shift at Kern Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit when he suffered a stroke and drove his car onto a sidewalk. The police officer who arrived at the scene did not call an ambulance immediately because she deduced from Dr. Harb’s vomiting, slurred speech and disorientation that he was intoxicated and, after a struggle, placed him in handcuffs.

The first ambulance that arrived on the scene left without Dr. Harb. Later, a second ambulance took Dr. Harb to a hospital where he received treatment and survived, but the brain damage he suffered likely because of the wait rendered him unable to care for himself.

In the opinion released Friday, a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal agreed with the plaintiff’s attorney that Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw erred twice in his instructions to the jury.

First, the court erred when it instructed the jury that an officer is not liable when their actions are not negligent, which was determined to be misleading and unnecessary.

Second, the court found that the judge should not have permitted the defendants to argue that the doctor was at fault for not properly managing his blood pressure.

“The opening statements, the state of the evidence, the nature of the erroneous instruction, and the closing arguments of counsel convince us that there is “a reasonable probability that in the absence of the error, a result more favorable to the appealing party would have been reached,” The court stated. “In short, allowing the issue of Harb’s comparative negligence in failing to take his blood pressure medication may have affected the findings that the defendants were not at fault by improperly focusing the jury’s attention on the patient’s conduct.”

The court reversed the judgment and remanded the matter to the superior court for a new trial.

In a similar incident, a 32-year-old Grover Beach woman says a Pismo Beach police officer mistook her suffering several seizures for public intoxication on the night of Oct. 11. Police arrested Andrea Hansen for public intoxication, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer, each of which are misdemeanor charges.

Hansen claims she started having seizures that night after leaving a Pismo Beach restaurant and pub. When she regained consciousness, she called 911 for medical help.

However, officers arrived instead of an ambulance, and they mistook her for being intoxicated when she acted disoriented and slurred her words, Hansen says. Officers sent the first ambulance that arrive on the scene away, as had the officer in the Bakersfield case.

During the arrest, Hansen suffered a sprained ankle and wrists and cuts and bruises all over her body. Hansen also began convulsing in a county jail cell because she could not use her prescription medication for several hours while she was in custody, she claims.

Hansen has retained attorney David Vogel, and regardless of the outcome of her criminal case, she could pursue a lawsuit against the Pismo Beach Police Department.

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What some of the above commentators seem to be missing is that Andrea admitted to having drunk too much and did so, knowing she has epilepsy. I have watched those police videos and I personally feel the cops did a great job of restraining themselves in the face of the vile language that came out of her mouth directed at them……epilepsy or not. I’ve never heard of someone with epilepsy spewing out that kind of language, but an admittedly intoxicated individual (and in the videos she admitted this) would do so. Sometimes our cops do wrong, but I’m beginning to think that in more cases than not, they get a bum rap. I think that is the case here. The above commentators should watch and listen to the videos before passing judgement.

Food for thought ….

Most police officers are good decent people. Often times, the mistakes they make are due to lack of training and reasonable oversight.

Having been a cop for 33 years, I have personally seen officers who, due to lack in training, have failed to recognize medical issues and confused them with violations of law.

Now lets put this in perspective with the recent article about SLO Chief Gesell and his travels to Israel and Orlando, Florida.

Couldn’t the police training budget be better served to send line officers to important training that serves the public and their welfare, rather than send a Chief of Police on overseas and out of state junkets, particularly when he drags along his family at tax payer expense.

Think about it !!!

Most cops are dumb functionaries …robot tools and machines within a machine.

The smart ones go on to bigger things as politicians, attorneys, or contractors.

I’m surprised you didn’t say alpha males with guns – isn’t that also on your list?

But then why haven’t we heard every “good” officer in SLO speak out about the theft of taxpayer money by their chief? Part of being good and deserving of our respect is to stand up and point of when one of their own is doing wrong.

Mike: I respect your opinion on issues concerning law enforcement, mostly because of your experience and of how I have read and heard your opinion on other issues. I too feel that many problems that arise with LEOs is due to a lack of training, as well as a lack of ongoing practice. Whether it is training to recognize medical issues or how to properly subdue a suspect so that both the officer and the suspect are not unduly injured, most cases of abuse of authority are, like you mentioned, mostly due to a lack of training.

I also applaud your take on how funds for police work seemingly are misappropriated by people like the Chief of the San Luis Obispo Police Department; spending money on actually training officers in the most complete, most through manner possible would benefit the actual citizens more than the conventions and get-aways that higher-ups are throwing away taxpayer monies on. Looks like there needs to be more over sight, follow through and accountability.

They determined these folks were intoxicated with no credible proof. I would think that if somewone was intoxicated to the point of slurred speech and vomiting that they would smell of alcohol and fail a breathalyzer test. Failure to train. Culture of anti-public cowboys and cowgirls = police state.

It’s time for these idiot cops to start paying the price for being the idiots that they are. Whatever happened to “To Protect and Serve”?

It’s all about the MONEY ! Tickets …for whatever prosecutorial discretion these non-elected judges decide, are the determining factors.

Take away the incentives by putting these NON-servants at risk….loss of job and pension, criminal negligence penalties ( both monetary and incarceration ); and their behavior will change.

How dare you question the police!!! Don’t you know that they are our masters and that we are lowly subjects who most likely are guilty of something and need thrown in jail???

You had better watch that attitude ‘grc’… may get charged with ‘contempt of cop’….

They want our respect, high pay, benefit after benefit, but none of the responsibility for their actions. They do “Protect and Serve”, they just never told us whom they would protect and serve. The retired Mr. Hedges got a little of that protection after his early a.m. accident with no DUI check, just the normal special treatment.