Shasta County sued for actions in lead-up to Yuba City collision spree

November 17, 2017

A Thousand Oaks couple has filed a claim against Shasta County, asserting it should be held responsible for injuries and damages suffered during a series of collisions in Yuba City in July.

Jeffrey Portnoy was the passenger of a vehicle July 18 when it was hit at Highway 99 and Franklin Avenue, allegedly by Klinton Harlan, 24. The claim was filed last month by his wife and co-claimant, Cheryl Portnoy. It names Shasta County, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office and Mercy Medical. Another claim was also filed against the city of Redding.

On the afternoon of July 18, authorities said, Harlan first stole his father’s car and was in an accident at Highway 99 and Franklin Road; then took a Caltrans truck and trailer and was in a wreck with that at Highway 99 and Bridge Street; and then hijacked a Prius – with a passenger still inside – and allegedly caused a third accident at Highway 20 and Tharp Road.

In all, a dozen vehicles were damaged and more than a dozen people were involved, according to the California Highway Patrol.

In addition to Harlan, three others were transported to the hospital with injuries.

The night before the collisions, Harlan was taken to Mercy Medical Center by the Redding California Highway Patrol for mental health concerns, according to Appeal-Democrat archives.

Redding CHP told the Redding Record Searchlight that a truck driver had called 911 the night before the collisions because Harlan was trying to break into his truck. Officers reported that he was in an agitated and paranoid state, and that Harlan told them he was having mental health problems and wanted help.

Harlan’s mother had been contacted by the hospital with questions about his mental health, but that was after Harlan had already been released. He was later arrested near Redding’s City Hall, where he had been banging on windows and claiming he was trying to steal a vehicle to get back home to his mother in Oregon. He was taken to a different, nearby hospital before he was booked into Shasta County Jail.

When Harlan’s father finally caught up with him and took him home to Nicolaus, he became combative, stole the vehicle and caused the series of collisions as he tried to head back up to Oregon.

“Medical personnel and Shasta County Sheriff knew or should have known Klinton Harlan was mentally unstable and a danger to himself and others,” according to the claim. “Harlan was released by county health providers and sheriff resulting in great bodily harm and damage to (Jeffrey Portnoy).”

Portnoy suffered internal injuries requiring several surgeries, loss of income, and extensive medical care. General damages are anticipated to be more than a million dollars, according to the claim.

“It is the claimant’s position that Klinton Harlan should not have been released by Mercy Medical Center on July 17, as affirmed by his subsequent arrest by the Redding Police Department on July 18 for displaying abnormal psychological behavior by engaging in acts of physical harm to himself and also stating he wanted to steal a car so he could see his mother in Oregon,” according to the claim.

Harlan’s father, Kevin, told the Appeal-Democrat a week after the collisions that if the hospital had held Harlan longer, the extensive damage could have been prevented.

Harlan’s father has told the Appeal-Democrat hat his grandmother’s recent death and years of concussions from high school football could have contributed to a mental break.