The death of Benjamin Greene and the legal issues surrounding it

July 12, 2017 | 10:06 am


On June 20, 2017, local lawyer Benjamin Greene collapsed and died while running in a 5K run at Hart Park. Temperatures were soaring in Bakersfield during the race, hovering around 107 degrees.

Immediately, civil liability and legal questions arose, and local media contacted the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for expert legal opinions.

Questions circled around waivers distributed to all runners by Bakersfield Track Club, water and hydration stations available during the event, aid stations and medical care on site, “assumption of risk,” gross negligence, and more.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matthew Clark was interviewed by The Bakersfield Californian about the incident. Clark stated it was too early to come to any hard and fast conclusions about the circumstances behind the tragedy — Greene left behind a wife and nine children.

Legally speaking, Clark said, it was important to explore two major areas in investigating the question of civil liability: the waiver ostensibly signed by each 5K participant, and a legal doctrine known as “assumption of risk.”

“Was there a waiver?” Clark stated in The Bakersfield Californian. “Was it signed for that event, that date? Did it have all the right language?”

According to the track club’s website, the waiver reads as follows:

“In consideration of this entry acceptance, I hereby for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, waive all of my rights for damages I may have against the County of Kern, the Bakersfield Track Club, the race sponsors, or any individual associated with the above and for all injuries sustained by me in this event. I attest and verify that I am physically fit and have sufficiently trained for this race.”

KERO-23, ABC News interviewed Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat, also discussed the waiver issue in relation to the “assumption of risk doctrine,” which looks at whether a person knows the inherent risks and dangers for participation. Greene posted on Facebook before the race that he was nervous about the race, and his preparedness.

On KERN Radio 1180, Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn told host Richard Beene that the No. 1 factor in determining the liability is the cause of death, as well as the waiver issue. The Kern County Coroner’s Office has not yet released the cause of death.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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.

Community Voices: Bad workers’ compensation laws in California are costing taxpayers

October 26, 2016 | 9:02 am


Editor’s Note: The following article appeared as a Community Voices article in the Oct. 14, 2016, Opinion section of The Bakersfield  Californian. To read the article in print format, click here. To see the article online, click here

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Taxpayers: Bad workers’ comp laws in California are costing you

By James A. Yoro

As a business owner, I have a personal investment in the health and welfare of my employees. Not only do I want a safe working environment but if, God forbid, they get injured, I want them to be taken care of so that they can return to work as soon as they recover.  That is what I expect for the insurance premium dollars I have spent.

A workers’ compensation system that provides adequate support to injured workers is a key component to the social safety net that we as a society have all agreed is necessary. It provides a fair and balanced approach to the costs of doing business and the unfortunate inevitability of on-the-job injuries.

Continuing erosion of these safety net benefits result in harmful and widespread economic consequences to the injured worker. What often goes unnoticed and unmentioned is the fact that we all will ultimately bear the brunt of this denial of benefits as a result of the cost shifting that occurs.

In fact, it’s costing you, my fellow taxpayers, right now.

California’s private workers’ compensation insurance carriers so effectively lobbied California’s legislators that they have eroded the system to the extent that the costs for the long-term care and disability for injured workers in the state often falls on taxpayers through the Medicare, Medi-Cal and Social Security system. This is an undue burden to the taxpayers and a shirking of the insurance company’s responsibilities. California’s workers’ compensation insurers continue to collect premiums from California’s employers all to increase their profits while California’s injured workers ultimately have to rely on taxpayer-funded systems.

A recent U.S. Department of Labor report (“Does the workers’ compensation system fulfill its obligations to injured workers?” – Oct. 5, 2016) outlines the troubling condition faced by injured workers because state-sponsored workers’ compensation programs throughout the nation are failing to provide even rudimentary benefits.

“Other social benefit systems … have expanded our social safety net, while the workers’ compensation safety net has been shrinking. There is growing evidence that costs of workplace-related disability are being transferred to other benefit programs, placing additional strains on these programs at a time when they are already under considerable stress.”

For example, here in California, benefits paid to injured workers to replace lost wages during the time off needed to recover from an injury have been capped at 104 weeks. The consequence of this is that those most seriously injured who do not recover in that amount of time face severe financial pressures. With no other similar benefit available, the burden to survive falls on the disabled worker, and ultimately the taxpayers.

The labor department report calls for an increase in the federal role of oversight including the appointment of a new national commission and establishment of minimum standards.

Business owners and employers should all be contacting their legislative representatives and demanding an end to this continuing degradation of rights and benefits to our hard-working labor force.

I am not a proponent of federal intervention into our states workers’ compensation system; however, this report should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. If we do not take care of our injured workers, then the threat of big government casting its shadow across our Golden State looms large in our foreseeable future.

James A. Yoro is a certified workers’ compensation attorney, a senior partner at the Bakersfield-based injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and has nearly 40 years of experience in the practice.

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If you or someone you know is hurt on the job, contact our workers’ compensation attorneys by calling (661) 323-4000 or chainlaw.com.

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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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles presenting sponsor for third ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K’

August 17, 2016 | 9:42 am


Last year, there were 4,223 DUI arrests in Kern County, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. And since 2009, there have been at least 4,000 DUIs every year in the county, with a high of nearly 5,000 in 2011.

Since 2000, the deadliest year for DUI-related crashes countywide was 2006, when 15 people were killed. Last year, 10 were killed.

Unfortunately, the grim totals continue this year. Drinking and driving, and crashes as a result, have become an epidemic in Bakersfield and throughout Kern County.

It’s a problem, unfortunately, that the injury lawyers and staff at the Law Offices of Chain | Cohn | Stiles see all too often. The Bakersfield-based law firm represents many innocent victims of crashes who have seen their lives and their family’s ripped apart because of someone’s decision to drink and drive.

But like thousands throughout Kern County, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has subscribed to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving slogan, “Drunk driving ends here!” We’re fighting back.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be the presenting sponsor for the third annual Bakersfield “Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash 5K.” The event — which will be held Saturday, Sept. 24, at Park at River Walk — is aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds to stop drunken driving locally, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunken driving crashes.

 

Stepping Up

In the last two years, local residents have stepped up to take part in the annual Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash 5K, raising more than $100,000 total in the process. Those funds have been used to help victims of DUI crashes in emergencies, guide those victims through the court process, teach local high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving, and much more to raise awareness locally.

Through it all, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been a key organizer of the annual event. Marketing director Jorge Barrientos is the event planning committee chairman, and was named the 2015 Volunteer of the Year for MADD California. Lawyer Matt Clark also serves as a committee member, bringing in sponsors to support the cause. And Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat is a member on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board, which guides MADD Kern County on how best to implement programs and services, increase awareness of drunken driving in Kern County and raise money to accomplish its goals.

The Bakersfield California recently highlighted the newly established MADD Kern County Advisory Board. To read that article, click here.

 

‘Spirit of Fight’

For innocent victims of DUI crashes and their families, the MADD event – for at least one day – provides a venue to share stories, let them know they’re not alone, have their voices heard, remember lives lost, heal and hope together.

“Even for that one day we are heard,” said Alicia Smith in Bakersfield Life Magazine, who two years ago was hit by a drunken driver and is still recovering from a broken hip and knee, and emotional scars. “To see the community come together for this cause is wonderful in so many ways.”

The first year, Alicia took part in the event while in a wheelchair; the second year, she walked, although through pain; and this year, she’ll keep on marching, she said.

“Every year, this event is bigger and accomplishes more and more, and that spirit of fight motivates me to press on,” Smith said.

The event also brings together people from throughout the community: surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community members rallying and running for the cause.

 

In This Together

“We’re all in this together,” said Matt Clark, attorney and partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We’re all tired of seeing our neighbors, friends and family’s lives affected by such a preventable crime.”

Joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles to fight to end drunk driving as a business sponsor are:

  • Wells Fargo
  • State Farm
  • Chevron
  • Kern County Prosecutors Association
  • Kern County Bar Association Foundation
  • FedEx
  • Clinica Sierra Vista
  • Kern Schools Federal Credit Union
  • STEPS: Special Treatment Education & Prevention Services, Inc.

Local media is assisting in raising awareness throughout Kern County. They include:

  • KGET-17, Telemundo and Bakersfield CW
  • Eyewitness News: KBAK-29 and KBFX-58
  • Bakersfield Life Magazine (B Well Magazine)

 

3rd Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K

When: Saturday, Sept. 24 (check in starts at 6:30 a.m.; ceremony at 7:30 a.m.; walk/5K starts at 8 a.m.)

Where: Park at River Walk, 11298 Stockdale Highway

What: Victim 5K walk, chip-timed 5K run with medals awarded, kid’s Superhero-themed fun run, vendors, information booths, games, much more.

Register / Donate / Join the Fight: walklikemadd.org/bakersfield

Connect: Facebook at “Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 2016

 

— Marisol Earnest, for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, contributed to this article 

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MEDIA COVERAGE

PREVIOUS MEDIA COVERAGE

‘Community Voices’ article calls for end of non-transparent practices in sexual assault cases

August 10, 2016 | 9:37 am


The partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have penned a “Community Voices” article, calling on the County of Kern to cease practices that call for confidential settlements in lawsuits pertaining to victims of sexual assault, as well as paying “hush money” to those victims. The article was printed Sunday, Aug. 7, in The Bakersfield Californian, which you can read in the newspaper version here as well, or read below.

For media coverage on relevant and recent sexual assault cases represented by the Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, scroll to the bottom of the page.

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County’s non-transparent practices in sexual assault cases need to end

By the Partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

One of the fundamental tenets of democracy is the concept of transparency in government. Unfortunately, for years the County of Kern has attempted to cover up instances of sexual assault and misconduct by County law enforcement personnel.

Government transparency promotes accountability and transforms citizens into public watchdogs. For there to be effective public oversight of government, our citizens must be able to freely access information about the decisions their government makes. This includes the right to know how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent, especially when that money is being used to compensate victims of sexual assault.

Kern County’s pattern and practice of insisting on confidential settlements with victims of sexual assault flies in the face of transparency in government. If a County law enforcement official sexually assaults an innocent victim, then we as taxpayers have an absolute right to know about it. We have a right to know how it happened, why it happened, and what, if anything, is being done to ensure that it never happens again. Confidentiality does nothing to prevent sexual assault from occurring again; it is adverse to public policy and can allow the wrongful conduct to continue. But when the public is made aware of these wrongful acts, and the settlements that follow, it has the effect of exposing sexual predators and lax departmental policies, with the hope that curbing future wrongful conduct will become an obvious priority for the County.

The only part of a settlement in sexual assault cases that should remain confidential is the identity of the victim. Protecting their identities encourages victims to come forward without fear of retaliation or humiliation.  Making the settlement terms publicly known while keeping the identity of victims confidential strikes the right balance between open government and protecting the dignity of victims.

The County’s well-documented practice of paying “hush money” to victims, however, is far from dignified. Even though County officials in news stories have described this practice as “nothing unusual,” and defended it as a “common practice throughout the United States,” it is far from common and it is neither morally nor ethically sound. The payment program is an acceptable practice in the context of resolving small claims for property damage, but is far from appropriate in the context of fairly compensating victims of sexual assault. To even suggest that the two are somehow equivalent is dehumanizing and demeaning to victims of sexual assault.

Approaching unrepresented victims of sexual misconduct with small stacks of cash at their homes shortly after they have been sexually assaulted is wrong, particularly where the perpetrator and fixer both hail from the same public entity. Perhaps more importantly, this practice runs afoul of our commitment to transparency and accountability, because it has the effect of sweeping sexual misconduct under the rug, without the public ever knowing about it.

One county official insisted to local media that confidential settlements have “nothing to do with transparency,” and criticized our law firm for being guardians of the public trust. We don’t take that as a criticism – we embrace it as our commitment to our community.

It’s time for the County to put an end to this abhorrent practice.

— Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a Bakersfield-based injury and workers’ compensation law firm. The partners include David Cohn, James Yoro, Matthew Clark and Neil Gehlawat.

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RELATED MEDIA COVERAGE

 

OTHER CHAIN | COHN | STILES SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES

Employers: Avoid potential wrongful termination lawsuits by following these tips

February 10, 2016 | 9:00 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles wrongful termination attorney Matthew Clark, appeared in the February/March issue of the Kern Business Journal. The bi-monthly publication by The Bakersfield Californian showcases business and industry developments across Kern County.

To see the entire publication online, click here. To see the article in the Kern Business Journal, click here

 

Neither I nor my firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles handle cases for employers. In fact, we do quite the opposite. We represent employees who have been wrongfully terminated. With this in mind, I offer you some suggestions on what I look for in a wrongful termination case, or, as an employer, some things you should avoid.

When evaluating a claim for wrongful termination, I first look to see if the employee was subject to an employment contract. We see these most often with employees who are members of a union. The union typically negotiates a collective bargaining agreement, and that agreement often times controls the termination of the employment agreement. For example, an employment contract may require that the employer terminate an employee for cause. In most cases I see, the employee is “at-will,” meaning there is no employment contract.

Second, I look to see if my potential client’s employer violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA strives to prevent discrimination in the workplace. If an employee is terminated for a discriminatory purpose, that employee likely has a claim under FEHA. FEHA prevents discrimination based on age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disability, among other things. In Kern County, we primarily see cases involving age discrimination.

Age discrimination falls under the regulatory authority of both FEHA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a Federal act.

At first blush, age discrimination is simple. If an employer fires and employee over 40 years of age, and then replaces them with someone substantially younger, that fired employee has established a “prima facie” case for age discrimination. Once the fired employee establishes a prima facie case for age discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the termination was not discriminatory; hence, the employer must prove that the employee was terminated for a legitimate, non-discriminatory, business purpose. If the employer is successful, the employee may claim that the non-discriminatory purpose was simply a pre-text, and that in actuality the termination was discriminatory – and so the circle of allegations goes.

Oftentimes, the motivation for terminating an employee is mixed. For example, an employer may have acted with discrimination, by firing an employee in their 60s while replacing that employee with someone in their 20s, but the employer may also have evidence that the older employee was failing to satisfactorily perform their job duties. These “mixed-motive” terminations were recently addressed by the California Supreme Court in Harris v. Santa Monica. Harris requires, amongst other things, that the terminated employee show that unlawful discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in the termination. If the employer can show that the termination would have happened anyway, without discrimination, the damages the employee may be entitled to are greatly reduced.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to address the complex issues surrounding wrongful termination cases in this short article. Accordingly, I advise any employers with questions to seek out qualified human resources professionals.

For more information related to wrongful termination cases and employment law, visit chainlaw.com.

— Matthew Clark is a senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles where he focuses on wrongful death, wrongful termination and motor vehicle accident cases, among other injury cases for people of Kern County.

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If you’ve believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against at your job, or sexually harassed at work, contact an attorney right away.

For more information and tips on employment law, including wrongful termination cases, contact the attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ s website for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information by clicking here.

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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 values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Attorney Neil Gehlawat named partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

December 23, 2015 | 8:11 am


Attorney Neil Gehlawat has been named a partner of the prominent Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, managing partner David Cohn announced.

Gehlawat joins David Cohn, Matthew Clark and James Yoro as partners of the law firm. At 27, he is the youngest partner of the firm, and perhaps one of the youngest partners of a law firm in all of Kern County.

“This is an incredible honor. I am extremely grateful and humbled by the opportunity given to me,” Gehlawat said. “I look forward to serving this community and continuing the fight for justice on behalf of people who have been injured or harmed by wrongdoers.”

Gehlawat joined Chain | Cohn | Stiles in 2012 and focuses on personal injury, wrongful death, civil rights and employment cases. He grew up in Bakersfield, graduated from Stockdale High School, and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He obtained his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

The Bakersfield Californian‘s CEO Richard Beene mentioned the announcement in his popular newspaper column and blog, Bakersfield Observed. Beene wrote:

“Here’s a reason to applaud those children who go away to college but return to put down roots in our community. One of them is Neil Gehlawat, who has been named a partner in the plaintiffs law firm of Chain Cohn Stiles. Gehlawat is a Stockade High School graduate who attended UC Berkeley and the University of Texas School of Law. Not a bad accomplishment for this 27-year-old wunderkind.”

Gehlawat is currently involved in several high-profile civil cases including the David Silva’s wrongful death case, Jose Beltran’s wrongful death case, and representing the victims of sexual assaults in juvenile hall and in Tehachapi by Kern County Sheriff’s Department officers.

Outside of the office, Gehlawat is involved in several community groups and nonprofits. He serves on the planning committee for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County’s annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K.” He recently joined the board for the India Association of San Joaquin Valley, and is currently participating in Leadership Bakersfield. He was named one of Bakersfield Life Magazine’s 20 Under 40 People to Watch in 2015.

Related to his career, he is the membership chairman for the New Lawyers Division Board for the Consumer Attorneys of California, a member of the technology committee for Kern County Bar Association, and is also the founder of the Cal Alumni Chapter of Bakersfield.

For more on Gehlawat, watch a video about him by clicking here.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Nominations open for 2016 ‘Best of Kern County’ poll (choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles, David Cohn)

December 9, 2015 | 10:35 am


Let’s make it four in a row for Chain | Cohn | Stiles!

The annual Bakersfield Californian Readers’ Choice Poll has opened up its nomination period for Kern County residents to nominate their favorite people, business, events and things in Kern County. The nomination period ends at noon on Friday, Dec. 18.

For the past three years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been nominated (and ultimately voted as) “Best Law Firm” in Kern County. Additionally, attorney David K. Cohn has also been named “Best Lawyer” two of the last three years, and voted “Favorite Lawyer” (top three) one of the last three years.

This year, organizers have added some new categories on the 2016 Best of Kern ballot. With the same categories as last year, the ballot has been pre-populated with the top ten from last year. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is listed under the “Best Law Firm” and David Cohn is listed under the “Best Lawyer” category.

Only the top nominations will make the ballot, and not everyone will make the ballot, according to The Bakersfield Californian. Voting begins in January.

To nominate in the poll, follow these steps:

  • Visit www.bestofkern.com and click the link to “start the nomination process”
  • On the next page, scroll down and click “Ballot” to begin
  • If you’ve voted in previous Readers’ Choice Polls, click “Register/Login” to sign in, and use your email address used in past years. Register by using a valid email address.
  • To nominate Chain | Cohn | Stiles and David K. Cohn in their categories, click the “Services” category, and nominate under the “Best Law Firm” and “Best Lawyer” categories.
  • Each vote/nomination is automatically saved.
  • Please note that there is one entry per email address, and multiple entries from the same computer or IP address are limited.

Being nominated for three years in a row for “Best Law Firm” and “Best Lawyer” is a huge honor, said managing partner David Cohn. The two categories were added to the contest in 2013. And the recognition is not be possible without the people of Kern County, who Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been dedicated to serving for the last 81 years.

“Our passion is to bring justice and protect the rights of local residents who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another,” Cohn said. “We also strive to assist local residents in need with their workers’ compensation* cases. Once again, thank you for trusting us to stand for you.”

The final results are unveiled in the May issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine, which is included in the April 24 issue of The Bakersfield Californian newspaper.

Solving a mystery of the history outside of the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building

November 11, 2015 | 6:15 am


Each week, The Bakersfield Californian features answers to questions posed by readers of the publication in a column called “Ask the Californian.” Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles asked a question in the column and requested help from readers of The Bakersfield Californian to help solve a mystery.

“There is a cement post sticking up outside of the front of the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building — on the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue — and I’m wondering if anyone knows what it was used for? A small metal strip is attached to it, and the year 1950 is inscribed near the top.”

The publication asked anyone with answers to email at asktbc@bakersfield.com or call The Bakersfield Californian. This week, the publication printed the answer.

“We got a big response: more than a dozen emails and phone calls,” The Californian said. “We received several different answers, leading us to believe maybe the post has had more than one use.”

HISTORY

First, a little history. The Bakersfield Californian earlier this year also highlighted the law firm’s move to its new home — on the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue — and the renovation of the building. Read all about it here. As the article points out:

“Most recently a Goodwill store, the structure has been home to a succession of banks for most of its long life … Some sources indicate the building was erected in 1938; others seem to hint that portions of the structure might date to 1889.”

Kern Valley Bank opened at the corner in 1874. In 1889, Kern Valley Bank held a grand opening for a new two-story brick building, but was gutted the very next day in the great Bakersfield fire that destroyed most of the town. It was rebuilt shortly after.

In 1938, Anglo-California Bank opened at the intersection. That business remained until 1954 when Anglo California National Bank remodeled the branch. In the years that followed, other financial institutions took over including Crocker National Bank, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual. Goodwill Industries took over in 2002, and vacated in 2012. The Bakersfield personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles purchased the building in 2014 and began remodeling, and moved in 2015 after spending 30 years in the Bank of America building.

Several historic features remain in the building:

  • The 18th Street entrance features an elevator lined with white marble and a staircase of beautiful green terrazzo flooring, probably a holdover from the 1954 remodel.
  • The arched roof from the original 1930s Anglo-California National Bank is still present.
  • In the basement is an incinerator from the Kerner Incinerator Co. of San Francisco, dated 1914, that still holds old bank transactions.
  • Three bank vaults can be found in the building, two of which have ventilators inside.

But what about the cement post outside of the building with “1950” inscribed on it?

THE CEMENT POST

Another historical feature that remains, likely a part of the building, is the cement post just outside the front doors.

Readers of The Bakersfield Californian had possible answers of what it once was used for. Most of them believed the post was used to hold a United States Postal Service box. But some people believed the post was used to tie up horses.

“The iron rings buried in the concrete curbs were used to tie horses up,” reader Michael McAlister wrote. “I believe the short concrete posts were used to tie up a team of horses that pulled a surrey or wagon.”

Another reader, a local architectural design draftsman, thought the post was a surveyors boundary monument “used to locate a point on a lot, tract or parcel of real property also called a surveyors bench mark.”

Said The Californian: “We shouldn’t discount it. Here’s a description of one type of surveyors monument on the website eHow.com: ‘Stone obelisks are frequently used as survey monuments. Once set in place, they are inscribed with the date of placement as well as the latitude and longitude. If made of a heavy stone such as granite and left undisturbed, this type of survey monument will last for centuries.’ Sure enough, the post at Chester and 18th has ‘1950’ inscribed on it. Was it a surveyors monument before a mailbox was affixed to it? Could be. We didn’t see a latitude and longitude inscribed. Whatever the answer, this was a fun question and thanks to everyone who weighed in.”

You can read all of the responses in Ask the Californian online here, or read the PDF newspaper copy here.

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BUILDING MEDIA COVERAGE

Law firm files wrongful death claim in fourth deputy-involved fatal crash in four years

August 18, 2015 | 10:05 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently filed a wrongful death claim against the County of Kern related to a Kern County’s Sheriff deputy involved crash with a motorcyclist. Local media covered a press conference hosted by Matthew C. Clark and Neil Gehlawat from the personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm, which included the release of surveillance video of the crash.

Read below and click the links to see full coverage of the press conference and media mentions.

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(Bakersfield, Calif. – Aug. 12, 2015) For more than 20 years, Larry Eugene Maharrey, 59, worked for Golden State Drilling as a diesel mechanic to provide for his family. At his vigil, friends and family described him as “a good man” who would do anything for anyone in need. He especially enjoyed fishing and riding his motorcycle.

On July 14, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road, when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.

Deputy Gomez violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light. In what has become a tragic and unfortunate trend, Maharrey’s death comes at the heels of another wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the family of Nancy Garrett, who was struck and killed by KCSO deputy Nicholas Clerico.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death claim against the County of Kern on behalf of Maharrey’s wife, Paula, and other family members. Attorneys Matthew Clark and Neil Gehlawat – joined by Maharrey’s widow – will host a press conference to discuss the filing of the claim. A copy of the claim will be provided to media, as well as surveillance video of the crash.

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During the press conference, Paula Maharrey, Larry’s wife of 14 years, described him as a “crack-up,” a family man who would give his shirt off of his back to a stranger, and an all-around “good man.”

“I miss him every day,” Paula Maharrey said during the press conference. “I just want the Kern County Sheriff’s Office to take responsibility for their actions, follow their own set rules, and train their staff better.”

This wrongful death claim against the County of Kern follows another wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Nancy Joyce Garrett’s family. Nancy Garrett was driving home from a Dodgers game when she was struck and killed by Deputy Nicholas Clerico’s Kern County Sheriff’s Office patrol car. Chain | Cohn | Stiles also represented the family of Daniel Hiler, who was struck and killed by Sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin as he crossed the street.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Claim filed against county in connection with fatal crash involving deputy (The Bakersfield Californian)

Family of man who died when his motorcycle hit a deputy patrol car has filed a wrongful death claim (KGET 17, NBC)

Kern County faces wrongful death claim in deputy crash (KBAK-KBFX 29-58, CBS-FOX)

Attorneys release video of fatal crash between KCSO deputy and motorcyclist (KERO 23, ABC)

Oildale man’s death comes as sheriff’s office tries to crack down on speed (The Bakersfield Californian – July 15, 2015)