Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins MADD to honor local officers, prosecutors fighting to end DUI crimes

June 15, 2017 | 8:27 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recognized and honored local law enforcement officers and prosecutors on Wednesday, June 14, for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes.

Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles was proud to be a sponsor, supporter and organizer of the event.

In all, more than 70 officers from throughout Kern County agencies were awarded at the 2017 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition ceremony, held at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield. Prosecutors from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office were also honored, with the highest awards going to the top prosecutor, top probation officer, and the top law enforcement officer.

“These local heroes are potentially helping save lives by removing DUI offenders from our streets,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “They deserve recognition for making our communities throughout Kern County safer.”

To view the names of all of the officers awarded, click here. Among the top award winners were:

  • Probation Department Award, Deputy Luis Gomez: While Deputy Probation Officer Luis Gomez does not conduct traffic stops to arrest DUI offenders, he does work hard at keeping the community safe by supervising felony probationers to ensure they are not consuming alcohol. He also works tirelessly to ensure these offenders remain in compliance with the orders of the court. Through funding provided by the Office of Transportation and Safety, Officer Gomez supervises 75 high-risk, felony and repeat DUI offenders. In 2016 alone, Officer Gomez conducted 947 home calls and 855 office conferences with these dangerous offenders. In 2016, he conducted 522 urinalysis tests by ETG device and 1,125 Breathalyzer tests. Officer Gomez has been swift in his responses to those who violate Court orders by arresting them or placing them on monitoring programs in an effort to reduce their alcohol consumption. Officer Gomez’ diligence in supervising these high-risk worst of the worst DUI offenders is commendable and has gone a long way to help keep our streets safer for the citizens of Kern County.
  • Top Prosecutor 187 Award, Kern County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn: Michael Yraceburn prosecuted the nation’s first successful murder conviction for driving while impaired by marijuana. That March 2014 crash, in which the suspect was driving close to 80 miles per hour before losing control, killed David Aggio on impact. The suspect was sentenced to 20 years to life.
  • Top Law Enforcement, Bakersfield Police Officer Louis James: Officer James was reassigned to the Bakersfield Police Department’s Traffic Section in July 2015. Since then, he has primarily worked the graveyard shift. As a result, he has been one of the most, if not the most, productive traffic officer in regards to DUI enforcement. Though he was assigned to the traffic section for only a year and a half, he maintained his aggressive DUI enforcement to make the citizens of Bakersfield safer. In 2015, He received an award from MADD California for his efforts, and in 2016 he arrested 247 DUI drivers. This was the most of all traffic units within the department and one of the highest in California.

Prosecutor’s Awards were also handed out by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, and were awarded to Kim Richardson, Garrett Rice and Brad Taconi.

The awards ceremony returned to Bakersfield for 2017 after the loss of federal grant funding and budget cuts prevented the 2016 awards luncheon from being hosted in Kern County. This year, several community sponsors, working with MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board, stepped up to make sure officers from all Kern County agencies were being honored for their work in fighting against DUI crimes.

The MADD Kern County Advisory Board includes Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat and marketing director Jorge Barrientos.

Sponsors for the awards luncheon included anonymous donors, Chevron, Kern Federal Credit Union, Bakersfield Police Officers Association, Greenlawn Mortuary, Raymond’s Trophy, Clifford & Bradford Insurance Agency, Sally Herald CPA, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,056 DUI arrests in 2016, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Sadly, many impaired drivers weren’t stopped in time, and instead caused major damage to innocent lives.

The awards luncheon is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes here. Bakersfield’s 2017 Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — will be held on Saturday, Sept. 23, at Park at River Walk.

You, too, can be involved in the fight to end drunk and drugged driving locally. You can help by signing up as a walker, runner (5K or 10K), team captain, or volunteer. Parents: The event also features a kid’s “fun run,” where each child of walk and race participants gets a free superhero cape. You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected.

For more information on that event, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

— Alyssa Wood of Chain | Cohn | Stiles contributed to this report. 

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Steps to take to identify and prevent heat-related illness at work

June 7, 2017 | 8:53 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyers James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo appeared in the Kern Business Journal

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Summer is here, and with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in Kern County, employers and employees must take precautions against the summer heat.

Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death, with local agricultural and construction industries are particularly affected when temperatures rise.

Under California’s Heat Illness Prevention Act, growers and contractors are required to provide water, shade and rest breaks to workers. In addition, supervisors are required to receive training on the signs of heat illness, and fines for not adhering to these rules could reach $25,000.

In addition, employers are required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. To successfully tailor procedures to your work activities, evaluate and consider the special conditions at your work site. An employer should consider the size of the crew, the length of the work-shift, the ambient temperature, and the presence of personal protective equipment or additional sources of heat.

If you as a worker begin to suffer any of the signs or symptoms associated with heatstroke, you should immediately notify supervisors so that remedial steps can be taken. Do not delay in reporting your situation, as heat-related medical conditions can be life-threatening if left unattended. If first aid is not sufficient to treat symptoms or complaints, and medical attention is required, the filing of a workers’ compensation claim may be necessary.

Here are some other notes to keep in mind regarding heat-related illnesses:

 

Heat exhaustion versus heatstroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is depleted of water and salt; in other words, the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, pale skin, and rapid heartbeat. If not addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, the most serious of heat-related illnesses.

During a heatstroke, a person’s core body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, which directly affects the nervous system. Symptoms of heatstroke include fainting, throbbing headache, dizziness or light-headedness, lack of sweating, hot or dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, confusion, disorientation, staggering, seizures, and unconsciousness.

 

Prevention

There are several ways to avoid a heat-related emergency. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids because thirst is not a good indicator of fluid loss. Drink plenty of water when you know you will be in a hot environment. Make sure to wear loose, light, and lightweight clothing when exposed to heat to encourage heat release. Avoid hot, heavy meals during the work day. A heavy meal will divert blood flow to aid with digestion. Make sure to take frequent breaks to rest under shade, and hydrate.

In the event of a heat-related emergency, call 9-1-1. Move the victim to a cool shaded area, and loosen and remove any heavy clothing. If the person is still conscious, have them drink cool water, and try cooling the person down by fanning them. If ice is available, place ice packs are on the person’s head, armpits and groin. Heat-related illnesses are 100 percent preventable.

 

James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney focusing on work injuries at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

‘Law Day at the Mall’ provides free legal advice to people of Kern County

May 10, 2017 | 10:15 am


Once a year, lawyers throughout Kern County come together for one day to offer free legal advice to anyone who may have a legal question.

It’s called “Law Day at the Mall,” and it took place on May 4 at Valley Plaza Mall in Bakersfield.

“What we try to do is give the public the opportunity to come out for a few hours talk to lawyer in a variety of fields and ask whatever questions they may have, and get some free information,” said James Yoro, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer on KGET-17’s Sunrise Show. Yoro also serves as the president of the Kern County Bar Association.

Yoro continued: “What we try to do is give people the opportunity to have a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting with lawyers that they normally may not go to, but here’s their opportunity to ask whatever legal questions they may have and hopefully get some answers to help them in whatever their situation might be … All of their attorneys are volunteering their time on a pro-bono basis, so that members of the public will get this opportunity.”

“Law Day” is presented by the Kern County Bar Association in collaboration with the Kern County Law Library, which is a self-help center that provides legal resources to assist those representing themselves in court. First celebrated in 1958, Law Day is a day to honor the rule of law, and an opportunity to educate the public. It’s officially celebrated on May 1 each year in the United States.

“Law Day” is celebrated in other places throughout Kern County as well. At Bakersfield College each year, the campus hosts a conference focused on law, including panels and information sessions for prospective law school students.

It’s also a chance for individuals to discuss these issues with the confidential nature of an attorney-client relationship without actually forming such a relationship. Dozens of attorneys are available during “Law Day at the Mall,” and have expertise on family law, criminal defense, real estate, personal injury, workers’ compensation, immigration, and much more.

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or at the fault of someone else, please call the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. Chain | Cohn | Stiles always provide free consultations on your potential injury case.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, attorney David Cohn selected among the ‘Best of Kern County’ for fifth year straight

May 3, 2017 | 9:27 am


For the fifth year straight, the people of Kern County have voted Chain | Cohn | Stiles as one of the best law firms in the area, and managing partner David K. Cohn as one of the best lawyers.

The law firm and Mr. Cohn were each selected as one of three finalists, named a “Favorite,” in the annual Bakersfield Californian Readers’ Choice Poll, also called the “Best of Bakersfield” or “Best of Kern County” poll. The contest for more than 20 years has had readers of The Bakersfield Californian and Bakersfield Life Magazine choose their favorite people, places, businesses and organizations in the Kern County area.

The poll this year featured more than 75 categories and received hundreds of thousands of votes, according to Bakersfield Life Magazine.

“Readers make their voices heard in selecting the people, places and organizations that exemplify excellence in Bakersfield,” according to the publication. “The competition is fierce and, at times, unforgiving but the honor of being dubbed ‘Best Of’ is well worth it.”

Winners were announced April 29 in the May 2017 issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine.

“Five years ago, when the ‘Best of Kern County’ poll featured the ‘Best Law Firm’ and ‘Best Lawyer’ categories for the first time, local residents gave myself and the law firm the biggest compliment by voting us as one of the ‘best’ in these categories,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer David K. Cohn. “Five years later, and Kern County residents continue to endorse us. We are deeply humbled, and grateful for this honor and will continue to do all we can to help the people of Kern County during their times of need.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the oldest personal injury law firm in Bakersfield, with attorneys and staff bred locally, giving them an extra edge that other firms would never have. In all, the staff and attorneys at the law firm care about their hometown, and hold those accountable to make sure local residents are treated properly.

As an example, take this testimonial from a confidential plaintiff who was sexually assaulted by a law enforcement officer. Chain | Cohn | Stiles represented her and her family in the case:

“They talked to me through everything and even helped me look for a therapist to help me deal with everything. They made sure I was well taken care of. We think of them like family now. They made the whole process 10 times easier than it could have gone.”

Added the plaintiff’s mother: “I felt like they wanted to help, and we felt safe and comfortable. Never did we feel pressure to do anything we didn’t want to do. I felt like they really felt the trauma we were going through. Our problems were their problems. As a mother, I was appreciative. We’ll always remember how they treated us. It was a tough time and they took care of us. They will always have a place in my heart. To me, they are family.”

To read more real-life testimonials from real clients of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, including video testimonials, click here.

And to read the 2017 “Best of” issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine, click here.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident due to the fault of someone else, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 or visit chainlaw.com for a free consultation on your case.

Wrongful death case involving speeding deputy continues after plea deal in criminal case

April 26, 2017 | 9:37 am


A former Kern County Sheriff’s deputy has pleaded “no contest” in connection with a crash that killed a 72-year-old Oildale woman in 2014, a crash also connected to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of her family.

Nicholas Clerico will receive three years probation, must pay a $570 fine and serve 240 hours of community service after pleading no contest on April 25 to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when Clerico struck and killed her in his speeding patrol car. The filing came after the California Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) report found Deputy Clerico at fault in the September 2014 crash, at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark, who is representing Garrett’s family in the case, commented to local media on Clerico’s plea and the ongoing wrongful death civil lawsuit.

“In talking with the family, they’re glad that (Clerico) has finally accepted some responsibility for what he did,” Clark told The Bakersfield Californian, adding that the family, however, has not received closure, and continues to mourn Garrett’s loss. “This was no accident. This was totally preventable.”

Family members have described Nancy as a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and the pillar of her family. She was a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provides DUI awareness services. At the time of the crash, she was returning home from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Garrett’s family is seeking changes within the sheriff’s department in how deputies are trained to drive. Her death, unfortunately, is not the only one related to driving by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies.

  • Larry Maharrey was killed when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive in Oildale directly into Maharrey’s motorcycle. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash. That wrongful death case represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, is ongoing.
  • Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were killed in December 2011 when Kern County sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin struck and killed them as they pushed a motorcycle across Norris Road. Swearengin was traveling at more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone, without activating his emergency lights or siren. Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled that case in March 2014 for $8.8 million.

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PLEA DEAL MEDIA COVERAGE

PAST CASE MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles fights to protect the rights of all injured workers in California, including immigrants

April 12, 2017 | 9:18 am


Did you know that in California, Latinos are less likely to file workers’ compensation* claims, yet have the highest rates of work-related injuries? They are also less likely to seek medical attention, have less access to medical facilities, and face the highest percentage of retaliation at work.

Undocumented workforce, in particular, suffer the most for fear of losing their jobs or facing negative reaction from their employers when they are hurt on the job.

Attorneys from the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been speaking out about the rights of all injured workers in California — documented and undocumented. The message: It’s vital for lawmakers in California to implement laws that continue to strengthen the rights and protections of all its workers, including undocumented immigrants.

“Latinos are the lifeblood of many industries in California, particularly in the Central Valley, and contribute tremendously to our nation’s economy,” said Beatriz Trejo, workers’ compensation attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “They deserve equal protection under law.”

Trejo served as the moderator for a recent California Applicants’ Attorney Association (CAAA), Latino Caucus, symposium that aimed to educate on the issues affecting Latino workers in California. Trejo is the president for the Bakersfield Chapter of CAAA.

The symposium focused on these alarming statistics: Latinos account for 59.4 percent of all workplace injuries and 37.8 percent of all workplace deaths. They experience a higher rate of injuries in California because of their employment industries — agriculture, warehouse and packing, food processing plants, or truck driving to name a few.

Workers’ compensation claims are less reported among undocumented immigrants because their immigration status is used as a weapon of intimidation. Despite the passage of strong labor laws, they are rarely enforced, according to coverage from Vida en el Valle, a publication that covers news from the Latino community in the Central Valley.

Because of these concerns, Trejo has been speaking at various “community town hall” meetings throughout Kern County, including Lamont, Arvin, Delano, Taft and Bakersfield. They are hosted by the Immigration Justice Collaborative, a group of volunteer attorneys who aim to educate undocumented residents in Kern County on their basic legal rights.

During the town hall meetings, Trejo gives a brief description of the rights of injured workers under the California Labor Code, and meets briefly with those with additional questions. Under Labor Code §1019: “It is unlawful for an employer or any other person or entity to engage in, or to direct another person or entity to engage in, unfair immigration-related practices against any person for the purpose of, or with the intent of, retaliating against any person for exercising any right protected under this code or by any local ordinance applicable to employees.”

And under Labor Code §98.6, “No person shall discharge an employee or in any manner discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment” for filing work injury claims, for example.

Seventy-nine percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrants are Latino with 2.4 million (22 percent) residing in California alone. In California’s workforce, it’s estimated that about one in ten workers is undocumented.

“It’s critical to continue to help Latino and undocumented workers with their work injury claims, to make sure they are fairly compensated and make sure their rights are protected,” Trejo said.

Seventy-nine percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrants are Latino with 2.4 million (22 percent) residing in California alone, according to Vida en el Valle. In California, it’s estimated that about one in 10 workers are undocumented.

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If you or someone you know is injured on the job, please contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website, bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Hands on the wheel: We can all do our part to end distracted driving

April 5, 2017 | 9:41 am


Plain and simple, distracted driving is a deadly behavior. In fact, federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.

It’s no wonder that 80 percent of drivers cite distraction as a serious problem and a behavior that makes them feel less safe on the road, according to AAA Foundation.

The good news is we can all make a difference — a drivers’ safety ultimately rests in their hands and those of their fellow motorists. And this month, during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to call on everyone to drive distraction-free, and speak up if you’re in a vehicle with a distracted driver.

“You cannot drive safely unless you’re paying full attention to the road, and on the other vehicles around you,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We can all play a part in the fight to save lives and prevent injuries by ending distracted driving, keeping our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

Here’s what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Refuel: Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

Here in Kern County, local law enforcement agencies and community groups are partnering to help make our roads safer by highlighting the dangers of being distracted while driving.

Specifically, Bakersfield Police Department is instituting zero tolerance enforcement efforts to discourage distracted driving. Officers will have a special emphasis in April on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws, according to the department, deploying extra traffic officers in city locations where higher numbers of traffic collisions occur. Starting in January, drivers no longer are allowed to hold their cellphones in their hands for any reason, including using any of a phone’s apps, such as music playlists. Fines start at $162 for first time offenders.

A recent national survey found that nearly one-third of drivers reported sending a text message or e-mail while driving, and 42 percent said had read a text or e-mail. A California Office of Traffic Safety study also determined that 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road. State road safety officials estimate that some form of distracted driving is a factor in 80 percent of crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking drivers to take a pledge to drive phone-free today: never texting or talking on the phone while driving, speaking out if the driver in your car is distracted, and encouraging friends and family to drive phone-free.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a suspected distracted driver, please call the car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 or visit chainlaw.com for a free consultation on your case.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files wrongful death claim on behalf of family of man who died while in Lemoore police custody

March 29, 2017 | 9:12 am


The family of Donald Hill, a 30-year-old Central Valley man who died in December after being restrained by police officers, announced the filing of a wrongful death claim against the City of Lemoore.

Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the Hill family in their  wrongful death claim.

Hill, a civilian employee at Naval Base San Diego, died on Dec. 31, 2016 while he was being restrained by Lemoore police officers near the 1100 block of Pine Court. A “spit hood” was placed over Hill’s head, he was restrained chest down with weight on his back, and he vomited and stopped breathing. After he became unresponsive, he was transported to Adventist Medical Center in Hanford, where he was pronounced dead.

Hill’s family has many unanswered questions about the death of their loved one, which they believe to have been avoidable and preventable. They don’t understand why Hill couldn’t have been taken safely into custody without killing him.

“Donald, or ‘Donnie’ as he was affectionately known, was a young and vibrant man who had much of his life ahead of him,” his family said in a statement. “Donnie was blessed with a warm smile and calm, easy-going spirit. Those who knew him best would tell you he always treated people with love and respect. He cared for his family and friends very deeply, and was a constant fixture in the lives of his mother, brothers, nieces, nephews and many close friends. His sudden loss hurts us all to the core. We’ve all been left with an empty feeling since his passing and the events surrounding his death make it harder to move on.”

Added Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat during a March 23 press conference in front of Lemoore City Hall after the filing the claim: “Officers went to the scene of the home on Pine Court and Mr. Hill was restrained by officers with the Lemoore Police Department. And as a result of being restrained and having a spit mask put on his face and being handcuffed, he ultimately died. The question in our mind is what caused the heart to stop beating . And we have a strong suspicion that the conduct that led up to Mr. Hill’s passing is what caused his heart to stop.

He continued: “The purpose of us filing this claim and the purpose of us filing this lawsuit is the search for the truth.”

Prior to working for the Navy, Hill served as a Coast Guard civilian for two years in Alaska. Hill was a member of the Lemoore High School football and baseball teams, and also played squadron sports while working for the Navy and Coast Guard.

Kings County Sheriff’s Office and Kings County Multi-Agency Critical Incident Team is continuing their investigation. The claim is being filed on behalf of the mother of Donald Hill, Diane Hill, who is represented by Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles as well as Thomas C. Seabaugh of The Law Office of Thomas C. Seabaugh.

These attorneys represented the family of David Silva, who died in police custody under similar circumstances in Bakersfield.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Kern Business Journal’s ‘Executive Profile’ features Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn

March 15, 2017 | 9:04 am


The following “Executive Profile” article appeared in the February-March 2017 issue of the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here, see the online version here, and read the entire publication, click here

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Name: David K. Cohn

Title: Managing Partner

Company: Chain | Cohn | Stiles

About the company:

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is Kern County’s leading plaintiffs’ personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm. Our attorneys have represented clients from Kern County, San Joaquin Valley and throughout California for more than 80 years. We focus our efforts on protecting the rights of individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another.

What I do:

I handle a caseload of wrongful death, civil rights, motor vehicle accident and other personal injury cases, while also managing four associate attorneys with my three legal partners, and more than 20 paralegals, legal assistants, and other staff. I’ve been practicing law as an attorney for 41 years, all in Bakersfield.

Where I grew up:

I was born and raised in Bakersfield.

Education:

  • West High School, 1968
  • University of Southern California, 1972
  • Southwestern Law School, 1975

Family:

I have three adult daughters: Tracy, Kelly and Jamie. With my wife Debby, I have three step-children: Lauren, Carey and John. All were raised in Bakersfield.

Hobbies:

I enjoy cycling, hiking, golfing, paddle boarding, skiing and scuba diving.

What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?

I learned valuable lessons in two of my first jobs.

My first job was working at Pizzaville in Bakersfield, making dough, making pizzas and cleaning the restaurant. I learned that no matter the job or task, it’s always important to do your best … even if means cleaning the bathrooms. That’s the surest way to get recognized as conscientious employee.

Another early job I had was as a roustabout at an oil refinery on China Grade Loop. The first week of my job had me climbing into a tank in 100 degree weather, shoveling sludge from the bottom. The lesson I learned: Stay in school.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?

My uncle, Milt Younger, showed me the importance of always out-working the other guy, never giving up, and being a strong advocate for those who aren’t able to defend themselves.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

Civility is the cornerstone of our legal profession. Whether it’s with clients, partners or legal adversaries, never forget the importance of being civil, honest and respectful.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Helping our clients understand the difficulties of the legal system when they’re at their most vulnerable, and helping them appreciate that the legal system will ultimately do them justice. Also, it’s a challenge dealing with insurance companies who want to treat our clients as numbers, and not as human beings.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping a client get his or her justice. It’s an amazing feeling to see a client or family compensated for their losses as a result of someone else’s negligence, and through that compensation, help them restore their dignity, and in some way, make up for their harms or losses.

What is the most memorable accomplishment of your career? 

I helped a young woman, who had been severely burned, obtain a significant settlement that allowed her to be the first person in her family to go to college. She obtained a degree in nursing, which then allowed her to work in a hospital burn unit, helping those who had suffered injuries just like her own.

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If you or someone you know is hurt at the fault of someone else, call the injury and accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Sexual harassment in the workplace persists, but with the law on the victim’s side

February 15, 2017 | 8:48 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyer Neil Gehlawat appeared in the February-March 2017 issue of the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here, and read the entire publication, click here

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Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, still a prevalent occurrence in the workplace.

According to a recent study conducted at the South by Southwest conference in 2016, two-thirds of women reported having experienced “unwanted sexual attention” at work. Moreover, a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine revealed that one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed at work. Sexual harassment is evidently more prevalent in the service industry, where a 2014 survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that 90 percent of women feel forced to “curry favor” with their customers when working for tips.

Even worse, 70 percent of women who experience sexual harassment in the workplace do not report for fear of repercussions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is a disappointing statistic, because there are laws in place both in California and in the United States to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, applies to both public and private employers and prohibits sexual harassment against employees, applicants, volunteers, unpaid interns and even contractors in the workplace. You can file a complaint online by visiting the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) website, but it is recommended that you contact an attorney before making such a complaint. The statute of limitations in California requires employees to obtain a right to sue notice letter from the DFEH within one year of the alleged harassment. The employee then has one year from the date of the right to sue notice letter to file a lawsuit.

Moreover, the FEHA requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to supervisory employees. The FEHA department permits employees to submit complaints if they have reason to believe that their employer has not complied with this requirement.

Sexual harassment is also prohibited under federal law. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can range from inappropriate sexual jokes, to inappropriate touching. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically protects employees from sex-based discrimination, which includes sexual harassment, in the workplace and applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

I advise victims of sexual harassment to take the following steps.

  • First, tell the person harassing you to stop. You may do so in person, but you should also put your request in writing; for example, in the form of an email.
  • If this does not work, or if you are uncomfortable about taking such action, consult your employment manual. You need to follow the protocol laid out in the employment manual, if it exists.
  • If it does not exist, you should notify your human resources department or your supervisor, and inform them – in person, and in writing – about the sexual harassment. If the harassment persists, even despite taking the above steps, then you should contact an attorney immediately to weigh your options.

It is illegal under both state and federal law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for making a sexual harassment complaint. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, document your complaints in writing, take action, and always remember that the law is on your side.

Neil Gehlawat is a partner with the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he focuses on civil rights, employment and wrongful death cases.

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If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed on the job, or has been wrongful terminated, please call the employment lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles right away at (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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