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.

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.

5 notable case results from 2016 include motorcycle accident, civil rights, car accident cases

January 18, 2017 | 10:16 am


With 2017 just beginning, we wanted to take a look back at some noteworthy case results Chain | Cohn | Stiles obtained for the people of Kern County in their accident, wrongful death and workers’ compensation* cases.

 

$10 million — Motorcycle Accident 

In June 2014, 27-year-old John Doe was riding his motorcycle in the Oildale area. At that same moment, Doe Defendant was driving a mobile crane while in the course and scope of his employment with Doe Crane Company. He pulled out of a driveway and directly into the path of John Doe’s motorcycle, who was unable to avoid the collision. As a result, John Doe suffered catastrophic injuries, and after undergoing surgical procedures, he lost his right leg. Later, the plaintiff complained of impaired memory, concentration and behavioral alterations, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, pain, weakness and numbness in all extremities, and phantom leg pain.

David K. Cohn of Chain | Cohn | Stiles represented John Doe.

The law firm argued that the crane company negligently entrusted, supervised, and trained the driver, and also did not properly maintain the property, which created a dangerous condition that blocked views of employees from exiting the facility. Additionally, the company failed to terminate the driver, who had a blood alcohol level of .02 or above.

In early 2016, Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled the motorcyclist accident case for $10 million.

 

$3.4 million — Civil Rights / Wrongful Death

On the night of May 7, 2013, David Sal Silva fell asleep in front of a home in east Bakersfield, across from Kern Medical Center. Several law enforcement officers arrived on scene and proceeded to use unreasonable and excessive force in striking Silva with batons several times all over his body, while he screamed for his life and repeatedly begged the officers to stop.

After being repeatedly beaten, bitten and hog-tied, Silva stopped breathing. And shortly after midnight, Silva was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

These events and those that followed after this night made international news, including the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Silva’s family in 2013. Attorneys Neil Gehlawat and David Cohn represented the family.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, a settlement was reached by Silva’s family for $3.4 million. To read a full chronology of events from the case, click here.

 

$2.25 million — Car Accident 

Ms. Vargas was riding as a passenger in a car when a 2004 Ford Escape rear-ended her vehicle while stopped at a stop sign in Porterville, and suffered severe injuries as a result. The driver of the Ford Escape was in the course and scope of her employment with defendant VNZ Payroll Services.

Matthew Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles represented Vargas, who suffered severe personal injuries including fractured acetabulum, facial lacerations and scars, neck and back pain and a traumatic brain injury, confirmed by CT and MRI studies.

In July, Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled Vargas’ car accident case for $2.25 million.

 

$1.5 million — Rear-End / Car Accident 

Ms. Contreras was on her way home from a family function when she stopped at a red light at 24th Street approaching Buck Owens Boulevard. At that time, she was rear-ended by Stephen Domingue, who was in Bakersfield on business for Mason Specialty Tools, LLC.

The force of the impact was sufficient to push Contreras’ vehicle in the rear end of the vehicle in front of her. Domingue was found to be at fault by the Bakersfield Police Department for unsafe speed for prevailing conditions. As a result of the collision, Contreras suffered personal injuries, including traumatic disc herniation, and retained Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

The accident exacerbated Contreras’ lumbar spine disease and hastened the need for surgery and the need for early medical retirement. Doctors advised she would have some pain and limitations for the rest of her life. In 2016, Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved her personal injury case for $1.5 million.

 

$1 million — Police Misconduct / Sexual Abuse  

This case arises out of the sexual assault of plaintiff Jane Doe in her Tehachapi home by Defendant Gabriel Lopez while in the course and scope of his employment with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the County of Kern. Lopez is currently serving time in prison for the acts committed against plaintiff (and another victim).

As a result of the sexual assault, plaintiff suffered and continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. She did not feel comfortable discussing the incident for approximately one year after the incident due to feelings of embarrassment and repression. Plaintiff’s expert psychologist has diagnosed her with PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder, based on her interviews with Plaintiff and psychological testing conducted.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles represented the sexual assault victim, and in 2016 resolved her case for $1 million.

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For more results and case information, visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles website at Chainlaw.com.

*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.

These results do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles sponsors back-to-school shopping spree for local disadvantaged youth

August 3, 2016 | 6:00 am


The 2016-17 school year is nearly here, which means many parents and children are preparing to go back-to-school shopping.

Unfortunately, that may not be the case for many underprivileged children in Kern County whose families are not be able to afford new clothes and supplies for the upcoming school year. But more than 200 of these local students and families won’t have to worry this year thanks to the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club‘s annual “Childspree” back-to-school shopping program.

And Chain | Cohn | Stiles, for the third year, is partnering with the nonprofit in the annual program as a sponsor.

The event takes dozens of youth shopping at Kohl’s department stores in Bakersfield, and this year will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6. Each child is given a backpack filled with school supplies along with a $100 Kohl’s gift card for clothes. Volunteers, including several attorneys and employees at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, help the children pick out their clothes.

“To see the children smile from ear to ear when they realize they will have a new pair of shoes for the school year, or new jeans, is amazing,” said David Cohn, managing partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We’re just happy to be able to help some of our local families in need.”

Along with Chain | Cohn | Stiles and Active 20-30 Club of Bakersfield, other participating groups include CASA of Kern County, Community Connection for Child Care, California Youth Connection Kern County, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County.

The event is truly helpful for many underprivileged families, and one that children and volunteers alike look forward to, said Brain Dean, former president of the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club, in last year’s coverage of the event by The Bakersfield Californian.

“I feel it is important to help children in need so we can provide them some great experiences while growing up, as well as help them become successful, confident members of society,” Dean said.

Some past volunteers include the law firm’s very own worker’s compensation* lawyer James Yoro and wife Rev Yoro, as well as personal injury attorneys Neil Gehlawat and Matt Clark. Click here to view photos from past year’s event.

Active 20-30 Club of Bakersfield was founded in 1928, and hosts several events each year to benefit local children’s charities. For more information on “Childspree” and other Active 20-30 Club events, visit www.active2030.org. And to see more of Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ community involvement, please visit our Community web page by clicking here.

— By Evelyn Andrade for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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*Notice:  Making a false or fraudulent worker’s compensation claim is a felony subject to up to five (5) years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000.00 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files wrongful death, elder neglect lawsuit after man drowns in senior living facility

July 6, 2016 | 10:10 am


Bob Fink loved to golf, to glide, and to spend time with his dog Molly and his family. He was married for 50 years, but when his love passed away in August of 2013, he moved to Bakersfield where his daughter lived.

His daughter Kathryn Dawson chose the Glenwood Gardens senior living facility (now known as Brookdale Riverwalk, Senior Living Solutions) as his new home. Fink was 77 and entering the early stages of dementia, in addition to being depressed from his wife’s passing. His seven kids thought the community at Glenwood Gardens would help him.

“We knew he was right there, and he was safe,” Dawson told KGET-17 News. “So we thought.”

On Aug. 1,  2015, the Kern County Coroner’s Office called the family and informed them that Robert Kenneth Fink had died. Fink had drowned in the pool at Glenwood Gardens.

It should have never happened. Residents must be cleared by a doctor to swim in the Glenwood Gardens pool, and, in fact, Fink had a letter from his doctor stating he should avoid the swimming pool.

Fink’s family, with the help of Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles,  has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming negligence and elder neglect in Fink’s death.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys David Cohn and Neil Gehlawat, who have vast experience with elder abuse and elder neglect lawsuits, spoke with KGET Channel 17 about the case.

“When incidents like this come up, then you start to wonder whether or not what they are saying in terms of what they provide is really true,” attorney Neil Gehlawat said.

Glenwood Gardens offers accommodations for independent living, assisted living, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Concerned that Fink was unable to care for himself — as he would forget to eat meals and take his medications — his children decided it would be best for him to be admitted to a senior living community. Fink was admitted in March 2014.

But Fink was never authorized to use the pool, which needed a key for access. On Aug. 1, a receptionist handed Fink a key to the pool area. There were no lifeguards on duty.

“This is the only way that we think they’re actually going to learn their lesson from this and make changes so these kinds of things don’t happen again,” Gehlawat said.

The family, along with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death damages, and funeral and burial costs.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Veteran Chain | Cohn | Stiles employee named 2016 Kern County ‘Paralegal of the Year’

June 15, 2016 | 9:18 am


Hana Tarin, a veteran paralegal in Kern County and at Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has been named the 2016 “Paralegal of the Year” by the Kern County Paralegal Association.

Tarin was honored during a Kern County Paralegal Association awards luncheon on June 9 at the Petroleum Club of Bakersfield.

“I am truly honored to have received this award,” Tarin said. “I am blessed to work for such a great employer and great attorneys who do so much for our clients.”

The award was highlighted in The Bakersfield Californian newspaper, the Kern County Paralegal Association’s “The Paralegal Post magazine,” and also the Kern County Bar Association’s “Res Ipsa Loquitor” magazine.

Hana joined Chain | Cohn | Stiles 20 years ago, and is the medical paralegal on personal injury cases, many of which include complex issues ranging from orthopedic injuries to traumatic brain injuries. Her duties include obtaining medical records and reports, dealing with expert witnesses on cases and writing medical summaries.

“Hana’s ability to identify the needs of cases is second to none,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing attorney David Cohn. “And the time she dedicates to writing summaries saves attorneys valuable time in analyzing expert opinions and preparing for depositions. Her vast knowledge of medical experts up and down the state of California benefits our practice on an everyday basis, and her ability to decipher medical records should qualify her for the name Dr. Tarin.”

This year, Hana has successfully contributed to several high-profile, multi-million dollar cases. She was the medical paralegal in charge of a complex motorcycle amputation accident that included more than a dozen expert witnesses. That case settled recently for $10 million.

She has shown time after time her superior knowledge of the ever-changing issues surrounding the admissibility of medical bills.

“She has been nothing short of a gem in the law office throughout her tenure,” Cohn said.

She is a leader in the office in collecting toys or clothes for the disadvantaged in our community, and fundraising in the office for local nonprofits. She once earned a certificate of recognition for community service from the Kern County Bar Association.

In addition to her stellar work ethic, Hana is the sweetest woman. She never gets upset and never raises her voice, staff and attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles shared.

Her personality is also reflected in her work with clients, preparing them for depositions and always willing to give them the time and day to answer their questions. Numerous clients this year have, in testimonials, relayed their appreciation for Hana, her kindness and patience.

She is extremely good at helping clients after their cases get settled, doing the homework necessary to get them their money, including resolving health care liens, and Medi-Cal and Medicare issues. She works close with structured settlement groups to help clients better arrange the funds they have received.

For her stellar work, Hana been recognized several times before. In 2010, Hana was selected at the Kern County Paralegal Association “Member of the Year” for her dedication to community affairs and the pro bono/teen court. She served as the vice president of Kern County Paralegal Association in 2011-12. She earned her national designation of Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) from National Association of Legal Assistants, and her Attorney Assistant Certificate in Worker’s Compensation Law.

Hana graduated from San Joaquin Valley College with her legal secretary certificate, and completed the Attorney Assistant Program from California State University, Bakersfield.

Hana joins a handful of other Chain | Cohn | Stiles paralegals who have been honored by the Kern County Paralegal Association. Recent “Paralegals of the Year” are as follows (asterisks denote current Chain | Cohn | Stiles employees, while those with the caret symbol are former employees):

  • Hana Tarin (2016)*
  • Cathy McDonel (2015)
  • Dee Fringer (2014)
  • Karen Clemans (2013)
  • Kay Roberts (2012)*
  • Barbara Hass (2011)*
  • Lou Stoker (2010)^
  • Barbara Oldfield (2009)
  • Jennifer Rodges (2008)
  • LeAnn Banducci (2007)
  • Leslie Larson (2006)^
  • Robin Woollomes (2005)
  • Aneta Adams (2004)
  • Barbara Hass (2003)*
  • Lauri Taylor (2002)^
  • Michelle Whitaker (2001)

All Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners named to Southern California ‘Super Lawyers’ list

June 8, 2016 | 9:09 am


Matthew Clark and Neil Gehlawat, attorneys and partners with the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, have been named Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” by Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine, the publication announced this week.

This is Clark’s fourth straight year earning the “Rising Stars” title, which is awarded to just 2.5 percent of lawyers under the age of 40 in the Southern California region. It’s the first time Gehlawat has been selected.

And with the two Rising Stars Super Lawyers selections, all four partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have now been selected as Southern California Super Lawyers.

Attorney David Cohn was chosen as a Super Lawyer for the fifth straight year, and workers’ compensation attorney James Yoro earned the distinction for the first time, the publication announced in January. The Super Lawyers title is also a prestigious honor, awarded to no more than 5 percent of lawyers in the Southern California region based on a high-degree of peer recognition and personal achievement.

“It’s a tremendous honor for all partners in our law firm to be chosen by Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine,” said Cohn, managing partner of the law firm. “And we may be the only law firm in Kern County that can say just that. The leaders in this law firm can say they are also leaders in our state’s legal system.”

Every year, the Super Lawyers selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. According to the program, Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a multi-phase selection process where each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. The objective of the recognition program is “to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.”

Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting an attorney, the program limits the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public.

As part of the honor, those selected are highlighted in issues of Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine alongside other awarded legal professionals. They also receive profiles on superlawyers.com, which you can see by clicking here.

The law firm has also received a resolution from the California Legislature for the honor, presented by Michael Bowers from Sen. Andy Vidak’s Office, and signed by Vidak, Sen. Jean Fuller, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and Assemblyman Rudy Salas.

Cohn, Clark and Gehlawat all work in Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury department, focusing on car accident, oilfield accident, civil rights, wrongful termination, wrongful death and other injury and accident cases. Yoro leads the firm’s workers’ compensation* department.

To learn more about each of the attorney and their practice areas, visit chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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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.

The wrongful death case of David Sal Silva

May 18, 2016 | 7:41 am


On the night of May 7, 2013, David Sal Silva fell asleep in front of a home in east Bakersfield, across from Kern Medical Center. Several law enforcement officers arrived on scene and proceeded to use unreasonable and excessive force in striking Silva with batons several times all over his body, while he screamed for his life and repeatedly begged the officers to stop.

After being repeatedly beaten, bitten and hog-tied, Silva stopped breathing. And shortly after midnight, Silva was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

These events and those that followed after this night made international news, including the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Silva’s family in 2013, to the settlement reached in May 2016.

Below is a chronological order of events and media coverage in the death and civil case of David Sal Silva.

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‘BEGGING FOR HELP’

Early reports from law enforcement officials claimed officers struggled with a man in his 30s for eight minutes in front of a home on the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive in east Bakersfield. Officers used batons and a K-9 unit before officers noticed the man was struggling to breath, called an ambulance, which rushed him across the street to Kern Medical Center emergency room. He would die shortly after.

The man was David Sal Silva, 33, a father of four.

Local media soon after reported a total of seven Kern County Sheriff’s Office deputies, including a K-9, and two California Highway Patrol officers arrived to the scene. They struck Silva with batons, released the K-9 on him, took him to the ground, restrained him and handcuffed him.

Immediately, witnesses stepped forward and described the incident.

“I watched a man deliberately murdered in my face,” one man who did not want to be identified told KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News. “I see an officer and the K9 dog, with a man detained on the ground, and the man was screaming for help … They were just sitting on him. And the guys, they were holding him down and punching him, too … He wasn’t resisting. He was begging for help, and begging for his life.”

Besides witness statements, media also reported audio and video documented the beating.

MEDIA COVERAGE

 

CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATED

Surveillance video obtained by KERO-23 News after the beating death showed Silva being repeatedly beaten with a stick while more law enforcement officers arrive.

A 911 call, too, helped document the incident.

“There is a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the (expletive) out of him and killed him,” the caller tells dispatchers. “I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole thing.”

“He was like a piece of meat,” the caller later told Los Angeles Times. “We were telling them: ‘He’s dead. You guys already killed him.'”

Details also emerged of how officers took witness cell phones that contained videos of officers beating Silva, hogtying him, lifting him and dropping him twice. Witnesses described how they were essentially harassed and held kept captive inside their own home by officers until they released their phones, without a search warrant being presented. Officers promised to return phones the next day, but were told when they inquired about their phones that the Sheriff’s Department was keeping the phone until the investigation was over.

At the same time, the Silva family reached out to and obtained the representation of Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“I have two grieving parents and one grieving brother who want to see the body of their son and brother,” David K. Cohn, managing partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles told news media. “But we will get to the bottom of this and I ask the sheriff’s department, once again, what are you hiding?”

The public feared a cover up by law enforcement officials was in the making, media reported. Chain | Cohn | Stiles would plan to file a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of the family.

Meanwhile, Silva’s family mourned his death.

“I can’t believe this happened,” David’s father Sal Silva told The Bakersfield Californian at his vigil, sobbing while kneeling down and touching the blood stains left on the sidewalk from the incident. “My son was a family man who loved his kids and family and in the back of my mind I still hold on to the possibility that the body we haven’t seen, might not be my son.”

The beating death of David Silva brought back memories for many of the infamous Rodney King beating, in addition to other high-profile deaths of minorities at the hands of law enforcement. The coverage would continue for years.

MEDIA COVERAGE

 

PHONES & THE FBI

Fears that police were attempting to cover up details of the beating death of David Silva grew as Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood revealed that video evidence expected to be found on one of two cell phones confiscated from witnesses was not present on the phone.

The phones were handed over to the Bakersfield Police Department for examination, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation was also called upon for a “parallel investigation.”

MEDIA COVERAGE

 

PROTESTS & LOST TRUST 

The beating death of Silva at the hands of police, subsequent phone confiscation, missing videos and other civil rights violations resulted in protests throughout Kern County.

Protesters stood in front of the Kern County Superior Court and held signs that read, “protection of our rights” and “stop police brutality.”

“I believe in my heart that someone has to investigate this and find out why it happened and why it’s been happening, please, just give my brother justice,” Chris Silva, David Silva’s brother, told The Bakersfield Californian.

On May 20, 2013, attorneys for the witnesses who had their phones confiscated and returned by investigators released video footage that showed the final moments of Silva’s life as he screamed while officers held him down.

MEDIA COVERAGE

 

‘ACCIDENTAL’ DEATH 

On May 23, 2013, Sheriff Donny Youngblood called the death of David Silva “accidental” due to heart disease, according to a department he leads, the Kern County Coroner’s Office. Youngblood also slammed media for sending “shockwaves all across the United States” in the case.

“They’re trying to say he died of natural causes,” David Cohn told The Bakersfield Californian. “Who would believe that?”

MEDIA COVERAGE

 

CLAIMS, LAWSUITS FILED

In June 2013, Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the Silva family filed wrongful death and federal civil rights claims claim against the nine officers involved in Silva’s death, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, Kern County, and the state of California.

The complaint sought damages on behalf of David Silva’s four young children, his significant other, his parents and his brother, for the loss of love, affection, society, service, comfort, support, right of support, expectations of future support and counseling, companionship, solace and mental support, as well as other benefits and assistance of David Silva.

“David Sal Silva was a loving young man who cared deeply for his family and his four young children,” David Cohn said in a statement to media. “On May 7, 2013, David died as a result of unreasonable and excessive force used by nine law enforcement officials, who repeatedly struck him with batons and hog-tied him despite his numerous cries for help. Those cries will forever be heard by his family, and in particular his four children, who will now have to grow up without their father. While this lawsuit will certainly not undo what happened, my hope is that it will serve as a catalyst for serious change amongst local law enforcement agencies. It is time that we put this longstanding ‘strike first, ask questions later’ culture to rest once and for all.”

A month later, local media described inconsistencies between information provided by Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and information found in the Kern County Coroner’s autopsy report, including the use of the hogtie restraint. The tactic has been banned altogether by law enforcement agencies, including the Bakersfield Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Cohn stated the manner by which Silva was restrained may have played a role in Silva’s death by causing “positional asphyxiation.”

MEDIA COVERAGE

 

NO CRIMINAL CHARGES

In April 2014, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green announced that her office would not be seeking criminal charges against the law enforcement officers involved in the death of David Silva.

“This is the reason we need an independent advisory panel evaluating these types of cases,” David Cohn said in a statement at the time. “Kern County District Attorney’s Office personnel work with these agencies every day, and they’re the ones in charge of prosecuting cases for them. Apparently, the way it works in Kern County is that unless they catch the officers red-handed, nothing will happen. It appears that they look for ways not to prosecute.

“Given that we do not have an independent panel in place to investigate, that’s the reason we filed a lawsuit in this case on behalf of the Silva family. Through this lawsuit, we believe the truth will come out. We have the ability to question these officers under oath. We’ll be more thorough in this investigation than any investigation that the Kern County District Attorney’s Office has done thus far. We won’t just rely on the investigative reports prepared by the Sheriff’s office, which are self-serving, one-sided versions of the events leading up to David Silva’s tragic death.”

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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY 

Dozens chanted for justice in downtown Bakersfield on the one-year anniversary of Silva’s death, including representatives from Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“We remain committed to obtaining justice on behalf of David and his entire family, especially his four children, who will be without a father for the rest of their lives,” attorney David Cohn said on the date. “The road to obtaining justice will be a difficult one; however, we are confident that in the end, the truth will prevail and justice will be done. This case is certainly about David Silva and about what happened to him, but it is also about much more than that. It is about changing the culture of local law enforcement in this community, and holding law enforcement officers who use unreasonable and excessive force accountable for their actions.”

Protests and rallies would continue throughout Kern County.

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CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION 

In late October, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Civil Rights Division determined there was not sufficient evidence to sustain a federal criminal prosecution of officers involved in the death of David Sal Silva, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the investigation was closed.

“To maintain the public’s trust and fulfill the high obligations undertaken by all law enforcement, it is critical that we diligently evaluate such allegations,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. “We undertook a careful evaluation of the evidence in this case, and we appreciate the assistance we received, particularly from our partners in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I extend my condolences to the entire Silva family for the loss they suffered with the tragic passing of Mr. Silva.”

The Silva family now looked to the civil courts for justice.

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PROTESTS FOR CHANGE

In the months and several deaths at the hands of police throughout the United States — Michael Brown in Furguson, Miss. and Eric Garner in New York — sparked protests and riots nationwide. In Bakersfield, police shot unarmed Ramiro James Villegas (James De La Rosa) in November 2014, which helped advance the chants for more accountability locally. In Kern County, the Silva family led the charge.

“Police brutality is an issue here and we won’t let it go away,” Chris Silva said at a December 2014 rally.

In March 2015, hundreds of family members, friends and supporters of people who have lost loved ones in confrontations with local law enforcement took to the streets of Bakersfield in a march that revisited the scenes of some of the deaths, including the scene of the death of David Silva.

“I’m here to support the Silva family and all the other families who have lost loved ones because of mistakes made by the police,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat told The Bakersfield Californian. “We’re not saying all police officers are bad people,” Gehlawat said. “But on occasion, police officers cross the line, and when that happens it’s important the officer be held accountable so that it doesn’t happen again to another family.”

In July, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office announced it would be reviewing all officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, and all uses of force resulting in death, for all law enforcement agencies throughout Kern County. Protesters contended the DA’s office has already shown that it cannot provide truly independent oversight of the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

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‘AMERICA’S DEADLIEST POLICE’ 

In December 2015, The Guardian — a renowned British national daily newspaper that also covers issues in the United States —unveiled its five-part series that examines the use of deadly force, rough justice, sexual misconduct cases and other issues involving “America’s deadliest police” of Kern County.

“Police in Kern County, California, have killed more people per capita than in any other American county in 2015,” according to The Guardian’s report. “The Guardian examines how, with little oversight, officers here became the country’s most lethal.”

Among the cases highlighted by The Guardian was the death of David Sal Silva, and other Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil rights and wrongful death cases. The series featured how the brutal tactics of officers in Kern County have ended lives, cost the public millions, and prompted claims of a police force out of control.

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TRIAL 

In March 2016, a federal judge refused to dismiss most claims, including those involving allegations of excessive force and wrongful death, in the lawsuit filed against Kern County in the death of David Silva.

“This is a resounding victory for us because the judge ruled in our favor in almost all of the claims, both federal and state,” attorney Neil Gehlawat told The Bakersfield Californian. “We’re very pleased with the judge’s ruling in that respect, and believe his ruling is consistent with the evidence in the case.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles worked together on the civil case with the Law Offices of Dale Galipo, as a lead trial attorney. The trial was set to begin in U.S. District Court in Fresno on May 12, 2016.

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SETTLEMENT

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, a settlement was reached for $3.4 million.

“The settlement today, nearly three years to the date of Silva’s death, is a vindication of a three-year campaign by the Silva family for justice, which brought national and international media attention to police brutality in Bakersfield,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles said in a statement announcing the settlement.

Attorneys from Chain | Cohn | Stiles and Law Offices of Dale Galipo hosted a press conference for media on May 5, 2016, along with Silva’s family. You can watch the complete press conference here.

“This case is now over, and this settlement is a bittersweet end to a long journey to achieving justice,” said attorney Neil Gehlawat during the press conference. “It’s bitter in that David is not here with us, and he is not here today to be a father to his children, to be a brother, to be a son. But it’s sweet because we know that the money that we’ve obtained in this case is going to go a long way to helping David’s children secure a bright future.”

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Annual march focuses on rights of victims of crimes, injustices in Kern County

April 13, 2016 | 9:23 am


One victim is a woman who was sexually assaulted by the very person in charge of protecting her and other citizens in our community, a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy. Another woman was struck and killed by a drunk driver as she walked home. Any yet another victim was beaten to death by several law enforcement officers.

They are victims whose civil cases are represented by attorney from the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, but they all have one thing in common. Those directly involved in these cases, and their families, are all considered victims of crimes and injustices, and were represented at the fourth annual Victims’ Rights March.

“It’s important to honor the memories of these victims, and it’s equally important to speak out against the injustices these victims have faced,” said David Cohn, managing partner of the injury, accident and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

The march, organized by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, began at 5 p.m. Tuesday (April 12) at the Liberty Bell in front of Kern County Superior Court and continued toward Mill Creek Park in downtown Bakersfield. The theme for this year’s march was “Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope.” The march was followed by a candlelight vigil.

The march is also part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, established by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

“I think a lot of the criminal justice system is focused on the rights of the accused, as it should be, but sometimes victims’ rights get lost in all of that, and I think victims feel like they’re overlooked or ignored,” said Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green on KBAK-29. “So this is just an event where people can come together with other people who have suffered similar losses.”

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, attorneys continue day in and day out to fight civil cases for victims of crimes and other injustices. The law firm is also deeply involved in causes that assist victims of crimes including through Mothers Against Drunk Driving and through the National Crime Victim Bar Association.

Recently, a five-part series by The Guardian examined the use of deadly force, rough justice, sexual misconduct and questionable practices among local law enforcement agencies, which garnered attention nationwide. And among the cases highlighted were those of local victims involved  wrongful death, police misconduct, sexual misconduct and civil rights cases handled by the Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

They included David Sal Silva, who was killed on the night of May 7, 2013. Silva was asleep in front of a home in east Bakersfield, across from Kern Medical Center when several law enforcement officers arrived on scene and proceeded to use unreasonable and excessive force in striking Silva with batons several times all over his body, while he screamed for his life and repeatedly begged the officers to stop. After being repeatedly beaten, bitten and hog-tied, Silva stopped breathing. Shortly after midnight, Silva was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a civil rights lawsuit in connection with the wrongful death of David Silva.

In another highlighted case, Jane Doe was sexually assaulted by Kern County deputy Gabriel Lopez in her home in Tehachapi. Lopez sexually assaulted at least two other people as well. He pleaded no contest to two counts of assault by a public officer, two counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of sexual battery, and was sentenced to two years in prison.

If you or someone you know is the victim of a crime, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

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David K. Cohn selected into West High School’s inaugural hall of fame

February 24, 2016 | 9:39 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn has been selected as one of the 10 inductees into Bakersfield’s West High School‘s inaugural hall of fame.

The first hall of fame selections come as West High School celebrates its 50th year of operation. David Cohn was in the class of 1968 at West High. The induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Msgr. Leddy Hall at Garces Memorial High School.

“It’s an honor to be selected to West High’s inaugural hall of fame, especially in light of all of the past outstanding students who graduated from the historic school,” Cohn said.

Below is the West High School hall of fame biography for David Cohn.

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David K. Cohn is the managing partner of the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and is one of the most highly regarded trial lawyers in the San Joaquin Valley.

David grew up in Bakersfield, graduating from West High School in 1968. At West High, David participated on the Norsemen team, playing positions of halfback and defensive end. He also ran the 4 x 100 relay team and the 220 distance.

David went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California, and shortly thereafter, he obtained his law degree from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Following graduation, David returned to Bakersfield, joined the now 80-year-old law firm and eventually became its managing partner in 2000.

David was voted “Best Lawyer” in Kern County in the 2015 Bakersfield Californian Readers’ Choice Poll. He has also been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer,” an honor bestowed upon only the top 5 percent of lawyers in the region.

David is a member of the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates, where he holds the rank of Associate, and also serves as the vice president for the San Joaquin Valley Chapter. He has also previously served on the Board of Governors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and as past President of the Kern County Trial Lawyers Association. Recently, he was selected to join the International Society of Barristers, a widely-respected invitation-only group whose aim it is to preserve trial by jury, the adversary system and an independent judiciary.

Outside of his profession, David has served on Board of Directors for Clinica Sierra Vista, and of the City of Bakersfield’s Planning Commission. He was chairman of the Board of Directors for Bakersfield Museum of Art from 2004 to 2005.

Over the course of his career, David has obtained numerous multi-million dollar results on behalf of his clients.

Above all, David is a proud West High School alum. For more on David Cohn, go to www.chainlaw.com.

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