News investigation highlights cost of school employee ‘administrative leave’ in Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil lawsuits

October 9, 2019 | 3:26 pm


In the 2018-2019 school year, the Kern High School District had five employees who faced allegations involving sexually inappropriate behavior, including alleged suspects in Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil lawsuits. Eyewitness News, in an investigation, found that those employees, put on administrative leave while they were being investigated for sex crimes, earned a combined $162,000.

Once you factor in the cost of substitute teachers and legal fees, roughly $250,000 of taxpayer money was spent on these educators who were not educating anyone, the KBAK-29 Eyewitness News investigation found.

“As a taxpayer, I’m offended,” said David Cohn in an interview with Eyewitness News. Cohn is the managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles and attorney representing four of the eight families who have filed claims against Edwin Rodriguez and the high school district. “These serious allegations have been made against him with multiple young women. Once he’s arrested why can’t the district judge just fire him at that point?”

Kern County Sheriff’s Office arrested Edwin Rodriguez on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with minors 14 to 15 years old, exhibiting harmful matter to a minor, annoying a child under 18 and false imprisonment. In February, local media reported 10 people came forward to investigators alleging inappropriate physical contact and other unwanted interaction by Rodriguez while he worked as an athletic equipment manager at North High School.

According to the victims, Rodriguez would give students sodas and candy, befriend them on the social media, and send them sexually explicit photos and videos, among other sexual misconduct that took place over several years. One of the women is 19 years old, and the abuse first occurred when she was a sophomore in high school. In one instance, Rodriguez sent a photo on Snapchat to two of the girls that showed him wearing shorts and a tank top and grabbing his penis. A number of text messages sent by Rodriguez to the girls told them he thought they were “hot” or commented on various parts of their body he found attractive. Rodriguez “groomed” the victims, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney David Cohn

Under Education Code 44939, schools can suspend school employees without pay in the case of a serious, immoral or criminal conduct, and have an expedited hearing in 60 days. In the case of Rodriguez, KHSD did not immediately fire or remove his pay, and the investigation took much longer than 60 days. The high school district said in a statement during that time that they “fully cooperated with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office as it investigated allegations against Edwin Rodriguez. KHSD placed Edwin Rodriguez on an unpaid leave immediately after he was charged with a mandatory leave of absence offense as required by Education Code.”

In the case of Edwin Rodriguez, he was placed on leave for 102 days starting in September 2018 over allegations of sexually assaulting as many as ten students at North High School. He was paid over $16,000 during that span, according to the news investigation. Rodriguez resigned in May 2019 and is facing 24 criminal charges.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and the parents of the victims advise other parents to talk to their children about boundaries with those authority.

“Take this opportunity to have a discussion with your teenager,” Cohn said. “Students should never have one-on-one conversations through social media or text messages with school personnel, coaches, or other adults in authority. And encourage them to speak up if someone in authority contacts them privately or crosses a line.”

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What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case

Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline, or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. The sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.

See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations, and they often have someone on staff that can help with stress.

Contact at attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a sexual assault and abuse lawyer.

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If you or someone you know is sexually abused by someone in authority, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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PREVIOUS CLAIM FILING MEDIA COVERAGE

PREVIOUS CRIMINAL CASE MEDIA COVERAGE

MADD Kern County’s sixth ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’ – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raises $60,000 to fight against DUI crimes

October 2, 2019 | 6:00 am


Kern County came together Saturday morning at the Park at River Walk to support victims of DUI crashes, call for an end of drunk and drugged driving, and raise more than $60,000 in the process.

The sixth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – is aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in locally, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes. Bringing out more than 800 walkers and runners for this cause, the event featured a kid’s fun run, 5K and 10K in what has become one of the largest fundraising walking and running events in Kern County, according to Bakersfield Track Club.

The morning featured an opening ceremony with statements from representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims of DUI crashes, outgoing Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, and Assemblyman Vince Fong, among others. It was followed by a kid’s fun run presented by Adventist Health and Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club, timed 5K and 10K runs, with medals awarded in age categories, and a march by victims, their families and supporters from our community.

“On this day, our community together to fight a serious in Kern County, and remember the victims of these crimes,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “If we all keep our passion for change for another 364 days, we will see a future in Kern County with no more victims.  Let’s make sure we all drive safe and sober, always.”

Making the event possible were sponsors Chain | Cohn | Stiles (presenting sponsor), Chevron, Kern High School District, STEPS, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., UBS Financial, Clinica Sierra Vista, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Strata Credit Union, Wells Fargo, Vince Fong for Assembly and more. A kid’s fun run was presented by Adventist Health and Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club.

Medals and trophies were awarded to the fastest runners in their respective age categories, with results being posted on the Bakersfield Track Club website. Awards were also given to the following top fundraisers:

  • Top Friends and Family Team: Madysyn & Kalebs Keepers ($3,113)
  • Top Individual Fundraiser: Laura Melton ($1,595)
  • Law Enforcement Challenge: Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Corporate Challenge: Kern Schools Federal Credit Union

Kern County is averaging nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. This year alone (as of Sept. 10), CHP-Bakersfield officers have reported 288 DUI traffic collisions, with 11 resulting in fatalities.

Since 2014, the annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash has raised more than $350,000, including this year. It’s not too late to donate – donations are being accepted through October at www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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EVENT MEDIA COVERAGE

PREVIEW MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles sponsors scholarships during annual ‘El Grito’ ceremony in downtown Bakersfield

September 25, 2019 | 6:00 am


Hundreds came together on Sept. 15 at the Liberty Bell in front of Kern County Superior Court to celebrate the annual “El Grito de Dolores,” a major celebration in Mexico that marks the country’s fight for independence against Spanish rule.

The evening included folkloric dancers, mariachi and banda music groups, and a scholarship recognition ceremony led by a representative from Chain | Cohn | Stiles honoring 16 Kern County students and scholarship recipients. Learn more about the scholarship program below.

The featured entertainment included Sonora Explosiva, Banda Orgullosa, Mariachi Toro’s de Mexico, Brian Anaya (La Vox Kids), Ballet Folklorico Huaztecalli, Floreo de Soga and more. Other attractions included face painting by Fabulous Faces by Nallely! and a street fair with food vendors and informational booths.

The celebration also included a live feed from the Mexican city of Dolores where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador led a reenactment of El Grito. Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16. The Grito, which occurred in the small Mexican town of Dolores, was the rallying call made by a Roman Catholic priest in front of his church to the battle against Spain.

The was the seventh year of El Grito celebration in Bakersfield, organized by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Education Foundation, which includes foundation chairman and Chain | Cohn | Stiles marketing director Jorge Barrientos.

 

SCHOLARSHIPS

The Bakersfield accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles each year sponsors student scholarships presented during El Grito celebration. This year, joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles in funding scholarships was Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Rabobank, Valley Republic Bank, Beautiful You Medical Aesthetics, and XM Garcia Law.

The sponsors, in partnership with the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Education Foundation, awarded 16-$250 scholarships to local students in pursuit of higher education, and who are giving back in various ways to our community. This year, the foundation received more than 250 applications from students throughout Kern County.

“We were thoroughly impressed by the students’ dedication to education, community service, and promising future outlook,” said KCHCC Business Education Foundation chairman Jorge Barrientos. “Many of them are first-generation U.S. students, and the first to attend a university in their families. Some of them are even DREAMers, pursuing their dreams regardless of obstacles in their way. We award scholarships to help them pursue their educational goals.”

Here are this year’s student scholarship recipients:

  • Carlos Alberto Aguilar
  • Christopher Aldaco
  • Monica Ascencio
  • Rafael Castellanos
  • Jazmin Jimenez Castro
  • Serina Ishida
  • Destiny Jimenez
  • Alondra Macario
  • Nancy Maldonado
  • Karen Martinez
  • Angel Daniel Mendoza
  • Audrie Michael
  • Andres Ramirez
  • Guadalupe Sanchez
  • Nimsy Soto
  • Omar Vences Vergara

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Sixth Bakersfield ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’ presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

September 18, 2019 | 6:00 am


Each year, too many innocent people die in Kern County from crashes caused by people who choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence. Those local lives lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families – are affected from this 100 percent preventable crime.

In fact, Kern County is averaging nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. In addition, Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. This year alone (as of Sept. 10), CHP-Bakersfield officers have reported 288 DUI traffic collisions, with 11 resulting in fatalities.

MADD Kern County – together with victims, local businesses and community supporters – are coming together to say, “Enough is enough!” and “No More Victims!”

The sixth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – will be held Saturday, Sept. 28, at Park at River Walk. It’s aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds for local MADD Kern County educational programs, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $300,000 for MADD Kern County. In what has become one of the largest fundraising walks and runs in town, the event brings together people from our community – surviving victims of crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, law enforcement and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

It’s also supported this year by Chevron, Kern High School District, STEPS, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., UBS Financial, Clinica Sierra Vista, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Strata Credit Union, Wells Fargo, and more. A kid’s fun run is presented by Adventist Health and Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club.

“Kern County has a serious DUI problem, and it’s going to take every single one of us to make an impact,” said Carla Pearson, MADD Kern County’s Victim Service Specialist. “We can come together to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ prevent future DUI arrests and crashes, and see a day with no more victims.”

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Work injury lawyer James Yoro provides insight for cancer cases involving former refinery workers

September 11, 2019 | 6:00 am


Editor’s Note: Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer James Yoro provided advice and legal insight in the local cases involving the Mohawk Refinery in Bakersfield, and workers who may have been exposed to cancer causing materials. Trusts have been set up to distribute fund to those who either worked at or are related to someone who worked at the refinery before 1980 and later developed cancer.

Below is the article published in The Bakersfield Californian, followed by a news video interview by KBFX Eyewitness News:

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Decades can pass before cancer from asbestos exposure becomes evident, and by that time, who’s to say exactly who or what is to blame?

It almost doesn’t matter: Lawyers say that if documentation can be found showing a cancer patient spent enough time working somewhere asbestos was present — and the cancer is consistent with exposure to the carcinogen — then there’s a chance that financial compensation may be available to the person or the person’s heir.

Such is the case with the former Mohawk Refinery on Rosedale Highway.

People who either worked at or are related to someone who worked at the refinery before 1980 and later developed cancer could be eligible for compensation.

People who qualify may be entitled to thousands of dollars, maybe tens of thousands, from any of several trusts set up to disburse money to victims of asbestos exposure.

Though no longer in wide use, asbestos used to be a common material in refineries and other industrial sites. As a result of exposure, workers who inhaled or ingested its microfibers may, over time, develop mesothelioma or lung, esophageal, laryngeal, pharyngeal, stomach, colon or rectal cancer.

The National Cancer Institute says 10 to 40 years can pass before asbestos-related cancers begin to appear.

The refinery has been declared a “qualified site.” That means instead of suing for compensation, qualified victims or their heirs need only prove how long the person was employed there — five years may be enough to qualify — and turn over medical records showing the cancer diagnosis.

Liability for paying such claims does not rest with the refinery or its former owners. Instead, payments would come from five asbestos trusts set up to cover injury claims.

The Bakersfield refinery was owned by Mohawk Petroleum Corp. when it first opened in 1932. It changed hands many times over the years, merging along the way with neighboring operations, and is now owned by Delek US. It is closed and has not operated for 12 consecutive months since 2012.

 

FINDING DOCUMENTATION

In the case of a qualified asbestos site, the process of filing and collecting on a claim does not typically involve a lawsuit. Even so, the process is not always easy; the difficult part can be collecting pathology reports, doctor’s reports and employment records.

Filing a claim has no effect on a person’s pension or Social Security benefits.

Lawyer James A. Yoro, an equity partner in the Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, said a statute of limitations limits the window of opportunity for filing a claim against an asbestos trust. But because the window only opens when a person becomes aware of the cancer diagnosis, he said, the statute doesn’t usually become a barrier to payment.

While asbestos claims are not unheard of in Kern, Yoro said, those related to valley fever are more common here.

He noted that someone making an asbestos claim may have been exposed to the carcinogen at different times at various locations. This diversity of exposures does not generally affect a person’s chances of collecting payment from an asbestos trust.

 

ANOTHER AVENUE

Yoro also pointed out another option available to people exposed to asbestos while at work in California. It’s called the Asbestos Workers’ Account and it is part of a fund in the state Treasury.

How long and difficult the process of collecting on an asbestos claim often depends on the documentation a claimant provides, Yoro said. The more records available, he said, the better.

He advised that anyone with a possible claim consider filing one.

“If somebody does have a potential claim, they should definitely try it out,” he said. “There’s nothing to lose by trying it.”

 

ASBESTOS TRUSTS

Dozens of trusts exist to pay out asbestos-related medical claims. In the case of the former Mohawk Refinery along Rosedale Highway, these five trusts have money that can be claimed by people who used to work there and contracted cancer, or whose antecedents did.

The trusts were established to pay out future claims against these companies:

  • Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), which used asbestos as insulation in boilers
  • Halliburton, manufacturer of asbestos-containing turbines, pumps and compressors
  • J.T. Thorpe, which used asbestos to make refractory materials
  • Pittsburgh Corning Corp., maker of pipe-insulating products with asbestos in them
  • Fibreboard, manufacturer of fiberglass insulation and other materials that contain asbestos

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If you or someone you know is hurt on the job, or hurt in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com for more information.

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles featured in Bakersfield Life Magazine

September 4, 2019 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles was recently highlighted in Bakersfield Life Magazine, which included the law firm’s partners — David Cohn, Matt Clark and Jim Yoro — being featured on the cover of the magazine. You can read the magazine article focused on the law firm below, or view the article in the magazine version by clicking here

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Not many law firms in Kern County – or outside of Kern County, for that matter – can compare to the history, results, and reputation of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. The Bakersfield-based accident and injury firm is commemorating 85 years in 2019; that alone is something that is unmatched by local law firms of its kind.

Here are some other standout facts about Chain | Cohn | Stiles:

  • For 85 years, the firm has been firmly cemented in downtown Bakersfield, dedicated to helping Kern County’s residents. Morris B. Chain first set up shop in the Haberfelde Building in 1934 in downtown Bakersfield, where the firm has been since. The firm name has changed over the years – including being known by many as Chain-Younger – but the “Chain” name has remained.
  • Throughout this time, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has earned more multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for its clients than any other law firm locally.
  • The seven attorneys at the law firm have 150-plus years of combined experience in accident and injury-related law. They include partners David Cohn, Jim Yoro, and Matt Clark, and associate attorneys Chad Boyles, Beatriz Trejo, Tanya Alsheikh, and Doug Fitz-Simmons. All except one of these lawyers were raised in Bakersfield. Learn more about each of the attorneys by watching their stories at chainlaw.com.
  • The firm recently received a ranking in the 2020 Edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Law Firms,” the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world.
  • Firm partners and attorneys David Cohn and James Yoro, too, have been recognized in the publication’s “Best Lawyers in America” program.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles was recently one of three organizations inducted into the inaugural “Best of Kern County” Hall of Fame, awarded to men, women, businesses, and organizations with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community.
  • The firm has been selected into the “Best Law Firm” category in The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers’ Choice Poll each year since the category was introduced in 2013.
  • In last year’s Bakersfield Life Magazine “Top Attorneys” poll, which highlighted the best local lawyers in 19 specialty areas as voted on by their peers, Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyers were selected as “Top Attorneys” under the following categories: Accidents & Injuries, Male Attorney, Workers’ Compensation, and Female Attorney.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles was given the “Community Champion” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.

The firm is commemorating its 85-year anniversary in part by looking back at its local history of serving Kern County. In a series of videos, the law firm partners featured on the cover – David Cohn, Jim Yoro, and Matt Clark – share stories of the law firm’s origins, and its values that remain true today.

To watch them, and learn more about the law firm’s anniversary, visit bit.ly/chainlaw85.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners David Cohn, James Yoro selected into 2020 ‘Best Lawyers in America’ publication

August 28, 2019 | 9:21 am


For the third year in a row, two veteran attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been recognized in the Best Lawyers in America program, the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world.

David K. Cohn, managing partner at the law firm, was selected once again into the personal injury litigation category, while James A. Yoro, senior partner at the firm, was selected into the workers’ compensation law listings. Both attorneys were selected into the 2018 and 2019 program listings. This year they are also the only two attorneys in the greater Kern County area to be listed.

Attorneys named to the U.S. News & World Report’s “The Best Lawyers in America” are recognized by their peers in the legal industry for their professional excellence in specific practice areas. For the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, more than 8.3 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in more than 62,000 leading lawyers being included in the new edition, about 5 percent of lawyers in private practice in the United States. Unlike some other attorney directories and awards, lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, and inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor.

“Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of recognizing extraordinary lawyers in private practice through an exhaustive peer-review process,” said Best Lawyers CEO Phil Greer. “Almost 40 years later, we are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased guide to legal talent worldwide.”

David Cohn is one of the most respected lawyers in the Central Valley, having been voted into the “Best Lawyer” category of The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers Choice Poll year after year. He is a Martindale-Hubbell AV preeminent-rated trial attorney, has been named to the Southern California Super Lawyers list, and was selected to join the International Society of Barristers. Over the course of his career, which spans nearly 45 years all at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Cohn has obtained numerous multi-million dollar results on behalf of his clients, and his cases have led to workplace, roadway and vehicle safety measures.

James Yoro is a Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional in California, and is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in the San Joaquin Valley. He is the past president of the Kern County Bar Association. He has argued cases in front of the California Supreme Court, and for nearly 40 years has fought day in and day out for the rights of injured workers.

For decades, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Its methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

Attorneys are nominated for consideration. They are divided by geographic region and practice areas, and are evaluated by their peers on the basis of professional expertise. Those who receive high peer reviews undergo an authentication process to make sure they are currently practicing and in good standing. Only then can top attorneys be included in Best Lawyers.

“Best Lawyers believes that the best lawyers know who the best lawyers are,” according to the program’s methodology. “Thus, our recognitions are based purely on the feedback we receive from lawyers already highlighted in our publication.”

Having at least one attorney selected into the “Best Lawyers” program qualifies Chain | Cohn | Stiles to be included in the program’s “Best Law Firms” listings. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was selected for inclusion in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report, which recognizes law firms for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Additionally, achieving a ranking “signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.” The 2020 “Best Law Firms” list is released in November.

You can view David Cohn’s “Best Lawyers” profile by clicking here, and you can view James Yoro’s profile by clicking here.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Of the 100 leading lawyers recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s The Best Lawyers in America 2020 edition, only two Kern County attorneys were represented.

Attorneys James Yoro and David Cohn, both partners and veteran attorneys at Chain Cohn Stiles, were recognized by one of the United States’ most honored and respected attorney-ranking systems.

Yoro and Cohn, both Bakersfield natives, stayed in the area after they received their law degrees. Cohn began practicing law in 1976, and Yoro began in 1979, and the entirety of their careers has been at Chain Cohn Stiles.

Their careers have impacted the Kern County community in a positive light — and they continue to make great strides in helping others.

‘A more positive and safer environment’

Cohn saw practicing law as a way to help others in need.

His uncle, Milt Younger, was a local lawyer who practiced personal injury law. The work he did inspired Cohn to follow in his footsteps, he said.

“Personal injury just seemed to be an area where I knew I could help the everyday person against insurance companies and big corporations,” Cohn said.

Since then, Cohn’s career has flourished, and he’s been able to create positive change in the community through litigation. Cohn, for example, represented the young son of James Moore, who died as a result of a severe beating in the Kern County Jail in 2006. Moore was mentally ill.

Cohn said he was able to establish in court that deputies from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office used excessive force on Moore.

“We were able to obtain a significant settlement against the (Sheriff’s Office) for Moore’s son,” Cohn said, noting that two deputies were also convicted and sent to prison for the beating. “Following the completion of the case, the (Sheriff’s Office) reviewed and revised their procedures for how to handle mentally ill detainees in jail.

“These types of changes, I hope, create a more positive and safer environment for the public.”

Representing the average working person 

Yoro has been managing Chain Cohn Stiles’ workers’ compensation practice full time for about 30 years. The firm has a long-standing tradition of representing injured workers, he said.

In his 30 years, Yoro has argued cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and before the California Supreme Court. But one of the most inspirational cases he’s worked was a disability case he won for a farmworker who worked all his life in the fields. Yoro said the man would have been destitute without the benefits he won in the lawsuit.

“After the hearing was over and I told him that the judge had ruled in his favor, he and his family hugged me and said to me in Spanish, ‘gracias por darnos esperanza,'” meaning “thank you for giving us hope” in English, Yoro said. “As a lawyer, you can never take for granted the impact or influence you can have on someone’s life.”

Yoro appreciates how Chain Cohn Stiles represents the average working man and woman.

“We don’t represent big corporations or insurance companies,” Yoro said. “That guiding principle has always served our mission statement. Our clients deserve the best representation we can give them.”

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

What you need to know about Valley Fever in Kern County

August 21, 2019 | 6:00 am


Last year, California experienced 2,200 new cases of Valley Fever, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. In fact, Kern County residents were affected the most with 890 cases. In all, about 30 percent of all Valley Fever cases nationwide occur in the Central Valley each year.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials are warning people about Valley Fever, not only for Valley Fever Awareness Month, but year-round. Breathing the Central Valley’s dusty air can put you at risk for this potentially fatal disease. Here’s what you need to know about Valley Fever, whose most at risk, what you can do to prevent the spread, and what to do if you or your loved ones are affected.

 

WHAT IS VALLEY FEVER?

Valley Fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is caused by a fungal spore that is found in soils in the southwest United States, and in some areas of Central and South America. People get infected by breathing in spores contained in dust that gets into the air when it’s windy or when the soil is disturbed during activities such as digging, gardening and construction.

In many cases, Valley fever does not make people ill, but some get flu-like symptoms that can last a month or more. Most who have flu symptoms recover fully, but others can develop severe disease, including pneumonia and infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin and other organs. Anyone who thinks they might have Valley Fever should see a doctor. A blood test can determine the disease, and doctors should be suspicious of Valley Fever in patients who live in the valley or have traveled through the area who have a cough that doesn’t go away after more than several weeks.

Valley fever does not spread from person to person, and many people who are exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, night sweats, muscle aches or joint pain, and rashes on the upper body or legs. Serious illness can occur, resulting in hospitalization, long-term disability, or even death.

Healthcare providers prescribe antifungal medication for some people to try to reduce symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. People who have severe lung infections or infections that have spread to other parts of the body always need antifungal treatment and may need to stay in the hospital.

 

KERN COUNTY AT RISK

Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where the fungus lives in the environment can get Valley Fever, and it can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in adults age 60 and older. Additionally, certain groups of people may be at higher risk for developing the severe forms of Valley Fever, such as people who have weakened immune systems, as well as pregnant women, people who have diabetes, and people who are black or Filipino.

The best way to reduce the risk of Valley fever is to avoid breathing dust by:

  • Minimize soil disturbance.
  • Stay indoors on dusty days.
  • Roll up windows in cars and use recirculating air conditioning when driving through dusty areas.
  • If outdoors in dusty areas, consider wearing a N95 mask or respirator.

In areas where Valley Fever is common, like Kern County, it’s difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus because it is in the environment. And there is no vaccine to prevent infection. That’s why knowing about Valley Fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment. People who have Valley Fever symptoms and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for Valley Fever. Healthcare providers should be aware that Valley Fever symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses and should consider testing in patients with flu-like symptoms who live in or have traveled to an area where Coccidioides lives.

 

WORK SAFETY

Employers in affected areas can take steps to protect workers from breathing in the fungal spores that cause Valley Fever. These include controlling dust, providing worker training, and suspending outdoor work during heavy winds.

It’s important for employers of outdoor workers to post resources for preventing work-related Valley Fever. Each year, more than 1,000 Californians receive hospital treatment for Valley Fever, and about eight of every 100 people hospitalized die from the infection annually.

Workers who dig or otherwise disturb soil containing the fungus are at risk for getting the illness. The fungus lives in the soil in parts of California, particularly the Central Valley. When people inhale the fungal spores released when the soil is disturbed, they may get Valley Fever.

Some workers at higher risk for Valley Fever include wildland firefighters, construction workers, archaeologists, military personnel, and workers in mining, gas, and oil extraction jobs.

Here are some steps employers and employees can take to prevent the spread of Valley Fever:

  • Determine if your worksite is in an endemic area.
  • Adopt site plans and work practices that reduce workers’ exposure, which may include minimizing the area of soil disturbed; using water, appropriate soil stabilizers, and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust; stabilizing all spoils piles by tarping or other methods; providing air conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate heavy dust and make sure workers keep windows and vents closed; suspending work during heavy winds; placing any onsite sleeping quarters, if provided, away from sources of dust.
  • Employers must develop and implement a respiratory protection program in accordance with Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.
  • Take measures to reduce transporting spores offsite, such as cleaning tools, equipment, and vehicles before transporting offsite; providing coveralls and change rooms, and showers where possible if workers’ clothing is likely to be heavily contaminated with dust.
  • Train workers and supervisors about the risk of Valley Fever, the work activities that may increase the risk, and the measures used onsite to reduce exposure. Also train on how to recognize Valley Fever symptoms.
  • Encourage workers to report Valley Fever symptoms promptly to a supervisor.

 

HELP AVAILABLE

Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical aims is to increase education and awareness for the public, patients and health care providers, and provide the patient care and promote research that includes epidemiology, clinical drug development, prevention, immunology and immunizations. Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently joined the Valley Fever Institute at the annual Valley Fever Walk aimed at raising awareness of Valley Fever.

The Valley Fever Americas Foundation aims to promote awareness and raise funds to support promising academic and medical research on the fungus which causes Valley Fever, in efforts to produce a vaccine or a cure. There is currently no cure for the disease.

“Understanding the conditions in which Valley Fever is most likely to be contracted can prevent further suffering and loss throughout our community, and being familiar with its symptoms empowers victims of this disease to be diagnosed early and increase their chances of making a full recovery,” according to the foundation.

More resources on Valley Fever can be found at the Valley Fever Institute and Valley Fever Americas Foundation.

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MORE INFORMATION

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or becomes ill due to work condition, please contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at 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.

Safety in school zones is key as thousands hit Kern County roadways for new school year

August 14, 2019 | 3:34 pm


The streets in the mornings and afternoons are filled with cars, bikes, SUVs and buses. The sidewalks, too, are lined with pedestrians, short and tall. This can only mean one thing: It’s back to school in Kern County!

Students in K-12 schools started the new school year Aug. 14, including the largest elementary and high school districts in the state, Bakersfield City School District and Kern High School District. In all, roughly 200,000 students are enrolled in K-12 schools locally.

With so many people hitting our roadways starting this week, and continuing through the summer, Chain | Cohn | Stiles — along with local public safety agencies — are reminding local residents to keep safety in mind always to and from school, and to share the road — motor vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike.

Bakersfield Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office, among others, will be conducting a maximum enforcement effort in and around school zones with the goal of preventing traffic collisions, and educate the public on pedestrian and bicyclist safety. In addition, officers will be distributing bicycle and pedestrian safety pamphlets in the area of local schools.

“The Bakersfield Police Department would like to remind and encourage motorists in our community to be aware of their speeds when entering school zones, avoid any form of distracted driving, watch for school crossings and school bus loading zones, and show respect to the other motorists on the roadway,” the department said in a statement. “Motorists need to be sure to plan enough time for their commute and be aware that traffic may be especially congested in school zones during the first week of school.”

Here are some more safety tips to protect your children and make sure they remain safe through the school year, courtesy of California Office of Traffic Safety and other local safety agencies.

PREPARE

  • Always be on the lookout for children when traveling around schools, especially during pick-up and drop-off times.
  • Map out a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop. Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school.
  • Work with your neighbors and your child on identifying “safe houses,” or homes of neighbors who your child is familiar with if your child is scared or needs help on the way to and from school.
  • Point out places they should avoid, such as vacant lots, alleyways, and construction areas.
  • Encourage your children to use the “buddy system.”
  • Teach your children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied. Choose a different route or walk on the opposite side of the street.

TO AND FROM SCHOOL

  • Avoid distractions while driving like texting, talking on the phone, and eating.
  • If your child takes the bus, remind them to line up away from the curb and look both ways when getting on or off the bus. Children need to pay attention to traffic signals and use crosswalks with a crossing guard if available.
  • Know what to do around buses. Flashing yellow lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop and flashing red lights means stop. California law requires drivers in both directions to stop until the red lights are no longer flashing.
  • Teach your children to make sure the bus driver can see them before walking in front of the bus, and to never walk behind a bus.
  • If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up. Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver, and stay in your seat. Don’t put your head, arms or hands out the window.
  • For bicyclists, always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly. Use hand signals when turning, and stay in the bike lane whenever possible.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Shooting by Bakersfield business owner raises legal questions

August 7, 2019 | 6:00 am


The police investigation continues in the case of a Bakersfield business owner who chased suspected burglars from his property and shot one of them as they fled.

The case has sparked questions about self-defense and protecting property — as covered by a KGET-17 News story that featured Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney David Cohn — but also about negligence and liability issues that come with discharging firearms.

Learn more about the case, and legal issues related to this case, below.

 

THE CASE

At about 6 a.m. on July 30, the Bakersfield Police Department responded to reports of two suspicious people at Power Performance Air Conditioning on the 1400 block of Easton Drive in Bakersfield. Shortly after, the business owner told police that the two people fled in a vehicle, and he was chasing them in his own car. Eventually, the vehicles veered into the river bed, one vehicle hit another, and the burglary suspects’ car went into the Truxtun Lake. As the vehicle was in the water, the business owner fired his gun, striking one of the suspects. He was taken to Kern Medical Center and was expected to survive. The other person fled on foot. The business owner stayed on scene and cooperated with police, according to news reports.

No arrests have been made.

Bakersfield Police Officer Bryon Sandrini told ABC23 News that “protecting your property with life threatening issues is not the best idea.” And Kern County Deputy District Attorney Joe Kinzle told the news that when citizens try to arrest people without trained law enforcement officials, it can be tricky to determine the best course of action on your own.

“If the crime is a misdemeanor it has to occur in the presence of the person essentially making the arrest,” he said. “That’s not true for felonies but affecting an arrest of someone you can only use force that is reasonable.”

Reasonable force would have to be determined in court if authorities ultimately decide to move forward with this case.

 

GUNS AND LIABILITY

In some situations, gun shot victims and their families can be entitled to financial compensation for their injuries, expenses, or emotional distress. Gun accident liability may fall to the firearm owner, the person who fired the gun, the firearm seller, or even the gun manufacturer.

Here are some examples where someone could be held civilly liable in the case of a shooting:

  • Inadequate Training: Knowing the proper way to handle a firearm is essential for everyone’s safety. Without proper firearms training, the odds of gun injuries can rise dramatically.
  • Lack of Supervision: It is negligent for parents to fail to secure firearms out of the reach of children. Not only could someone receive a civil complaint in the case of an injury or death due to a gun discharge, but the gun owner may be criminally liable as well.
  • Reckless Firearm Handling: Aiming guns recklessly, playing with a gun, failing to keep the safety engaged, and celebratory firing into the air are some examples of reckless and negligent behavior.
  • Hunting Accidents: Hunters may fail to identify a target while shooting for game or can fail to maintain a safe firing zone. Wearing proper safety gear while hunting, which can identify people versus game, is vital.
  • Improper Maintenance: It is possible that guns can rupture or explode if not poorly maintained.
  • Improper Use of Ammunition: Using the wrong caliber or size ammunition can lead to dangerous firearm malfunctions.
  • Intoxication: Never drink and shoot. In fact, accidental firearm discharge after consuming alcohol or other drugs is a leading cause of gun injuries.
  • Poor Range Management: Common gun range injuries include incidents caused by slipping and falling on ejected shell casings, or leaked gun oil.
  • Manufacturer Defects: Gun owners expect their firearms to function correctly and according to model specifications. If a firearm unexpectedly discharges or breaks apart, the manufacturer and the store where the owner purchased the firearm may be made to pay under product liability laws in the case of injuries.

 

ACCIDENTS VERSUS NEGLIGENCE

Accidents can happen even when the gun owner had proper training and took all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of others. For example, a gun can slip from the owners hands, fall to ground and discharge, striking a passerby.

Negligent discharge occurs when the gun owner or shooter fails to exercise reasonable care and precaution when handling the gun, thereby endangering the safety of others. Using the above example, it would be negligent for the gun owner to consume alcohol or drugs before handling the gun that then falls to the floor and discharges. In other words, the gun accidents were caused by behavior that unreasonably jeopardized the safety of others.

The Bakersfield business owner in the case highlighted above could be potentially charged with a crime, or could be civilly liable, said attorney David Cohn.

“You certainly do not have a right under the law to shoot someone especially if they are not threatening you with any type of deadly force,” Cohn said. “It seems that the people he was chasing, they may have been the people who were actually in fear.”

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.⁣⁣⁣⁣

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