Chain | Cohn | Stiles files elder neglect, wrongful death, fraud claim against Bakersfield senior rehab facilities

July 18, 2018 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed an elder abuse and neglect lawsuit against a Bakersfield senior rehabilitation center that resulted in the death of an 80-year-old man, longtime teacher, U.S. Army veteran, and husband of 57 years.

The elder abuse, elder neglect, wrongful death, and fraud complaint was filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the widow of John Paul Owens, Carol Owens, against Brookdale Senior Living, Silvercrest Manor, and Wade Budney of “A Helping Hand Senior Care Services.”

The filing of the complaint was covered by KGET-17 News, which you can view by clicking here.

Paul Owens was born in 1937 in Oklahoma. His family moved to McFarland when he was 4 years old, and he graduated from McFarland High School. After school, he served in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of sergeant, and worked as a paratrooper.

In 1960, Paul married Carol. He earned his teaching credential in 1962 and would teach for 38 years. He loved cross country running, and working with his hands.

Well into retirement, Paul began to suffer symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He took a fall at home in 2017 that required him to have surgery on his leg and hip. After, Paul was placed in Brookdale Senior Living for daily care.

“So he could walk again, take care of himself again, so he could go back home and live with his wife of 57 years, that was the goal,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark told KGET News.

That didn’t happen. Paul developed large bed sores, pressure ulcers and received inadequate care. As an example, he was bathed just four times over a span of 35 days.

“Mr. Owens was continually denied the benefit of those interventions necessary to prevent the formation and progression of pressure ulcers,” according to the complaint.

Soon, Carol Owens was told Paul could no longer be housed at Brookdale, and needed to find another facility due to insurance issues. Brookdale contacted “A Helping Hand Senior Care Services,” ran by Wade Budney, to be discharged to Silvercrest.

“Budney puts [Owens] in his personal vehicle, this is a guy with two stage three pressure ulcers, a urinary catheter, a broken leg, hasn’t had rehab yet,” Clark told KGET.

Carol Owens added: “I was told if he wasn’t transferred that Wade would call and report me for elder abuse.”

The inadequate care continued at Silvercrest. Ultimately, the event prompted an investigation by the California Department of Public Health. The department found that Brookdale failed to prevent Paul Owens from developing ulcers, prematurely discharged him, and failed to safely discharge him to another facility.

Additionally, Budney falsely and misleadingly stated that Paul Owens would receive appropriate and adequate care at Silvercrest. He also concealed the fact that he would receive monetary compensation from Silvercrest.

Shortly after being admitted to Silvercrest, Paul Owens was taken to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. He died shortly after in January 2018.

“The main reason I’m doing this is I don’t want other people to have to go through this with loved ones, that’s the whole goal,” Carol Owens told KGET News.

———

Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who cannot, our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. If you or someone you know experiences elder abuse or neglect, please contact our attorneys by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s specialized website focused on elder abuse at bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

———

MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer selected to Bakersfield ’20 Under 40 People to Watch’

July 5, 2018 | 7:19 am


Bakersfield Life Magazine’s “20 Under 40 People to Watch” highlights outstanding young men and  women whom Bakersfield can be proud of, who possess a hard work ethic, dedication, and a passion for volunteering.

“Their success is only rivaled by their commitment to giving back, making our community better for current and future generations,” according to Bakersfield Life.

For 2018, the magazine selected Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer Beatriz Trejo as one of its “20 Under 40 People to Watch” for her success in her profession, and meaningful contributions to our local community. She and 19 others were highlighted in the July issue of the magazine.

Trejo’s inclusion on the list now makes four people at the law firm who have been selected for this honor:

This year’s “20 Under 40 People to Watch” honorees were recognized during a reception. In receiving her award, Beatriz was described by Bakersfield Life editor Mark Nessia as “someone who has achieved tremendous success in her career, and who has become a leader in the community. She continues to achieve in her job, advocating for those in times of need and her commitment to providing goodwill for her own town that will never end. She has experienced success through many hardships, which she has taken to use as a venue to give back and achieve.”

In particular, Trejo is involved in several local organizations on a volunteer basis including CBCC Foundation, Latina Leaders of Kern County, CSUB Pre-Law Advisory Committee, Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Education Foundation’ Small Business Academy, Kern County Cancer Run committee, and Immigration Justice Collaborative.

She is the Bakersfield Chapter President for the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), a statewide organization advocating for injured workers. Trejo is also is the board member on the CAAA Legislative Caucus Board Member, advocating at the state government level. Last year, she was selected as the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.

The following profile on Trejo was published in Bakersfield Life Magazine.

———

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

That’s the mentality Beatriz Trejo takes with her in all aspects of her life as she looks for ways to challenge herself every step of the way.

That’s why she enjoys CrossFit. That’s why she went to law school, despite working a job she enjoyed at CSU Northridge, where she earned her master’s in political science.

Trejo attended law school at the University of Akron in Ohio and moved back to Bakersfield the day after graduation in 2011, starting her career as a workers’ compensation defense attorney for Hanna Brophy.

Despite working hard for her clients, Trejo felt her personality was better-suited toward protecting and advocating for injured workers rather than their employers. In 2015, she joined Chain Cohn Stiles as an associate attorney representing injured workers in workers’ compensation claims.

“An injury goes beyond a person,” she said. “It affects their entire family, and I don’t take that lightly.”

Trejo is driven by the fact that she has been on the other side and knows the benefits that can be negated to injured workers, so she strives not only to serve her clients to the best of her ability, but to educate other attorneys so they, too, can do the same.

“As far as what is motivating me, I think there is a true, true desire to help my clients and the community,” she said.

Trejo is involved with numerous local organizations, most notably, being a member of the planning committee for Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center’s Kern County Cancer Run/Walk, a cause that’s near and dear to her heart because her dad passed away from cancer in 2016 and her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer six months later.

“I’ve been a family member of someone who’s been diagnosed with cancer and I know how it feels and I know how much support is needed to get through something like that,” she said. “I very much understand that situation and feel like it’s happened to me and now it’s my turn to give back.”

———

MEDIA COVERAGE

MADD Kern County honors local officers, Chain | Cohn | Stiles for contributions in local fight against DUI crimes

June 20, 2018 | 9:37 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County has recognized and honored our local law enforcement officers and prosecutors for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes, and also honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.

The 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony was held Wednesday, June 13, at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield (Liberty Hall). In all, more than 50 officers from throughout Kern County agencies were awarded, as well as a prosecutor from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. Awards were handed out to the top prosecutor, top probation officer, and the top law enforcement officer, among others.

“This is our chance to give a big ‘thank you’ to the men and women in Kern County who are dedicated to keeping our streets as safe as possible,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County.

For a full list of award winners, and to see media coverage of the event, please see below.

The awards ceremony was organized by MADD Kern County volunteers, and made possible by the financial support of local sponsors: Chevron, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, UBS Financial, Sally Herald CPA, STEPS Inc., and Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,120 DUI arrests in 2017, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Representatives from all local enforcement agencies will be in attendance.

The awards luncheon is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes here, the second being the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, taking place this year on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Park at River Walk.

———

TOP DUI ARRESTING OFFICER OF KERN COUNTY

Officer Rodney Black – 120 DUI Arrests

California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield

PROSECUTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

James Simson

Supervising Deputy District Attorney of Kern County

PROBATION OFFICER OF THE YEAR AWARD

Officer Luis Gomez

Kern County Probation Department

COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD

Marsha Williams

A Life Interrupted

COMMUNITY CHAMPION AWARD

Chain Cohn Stiles

TOP ARRESTING OFFICER PER DEPARTMENT

  • Arvin Police Department Officer Kevin Archuleta – 9
  • California Highway Patrol, Fort Tejon Officer Jason Lachaussee – 11
  • California Highway Patrol, Grapevine Officer Rex Hornibrook – 2
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Don Mulligan – 61
  • Kern County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Steven Davis – 11
  • McFarland Police Department Officer Tyler Helton – 41
  • Ridgecrest Police Department Officer Jose Farias – 12
  • Shafter Police Department Officer Jeffrey McCuan – 27
  • Taft Police Department Officer Andrew Avila – 6

CENTURY AWARDS

More than 100 DUI arrests in 2017

  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Brianna Pace – 104
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Richard Robles – 103
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Dallas Plotner – 106

DEUCE AWARDS

Between 1 and 49 DUI arrests in 2017

  • Arvin Police Department Officer Jacob Pelletier – 4
  • Arvin Police Department Officer Emilio Quezada – 4
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Logan Holmes – 46
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Audrina Doll Schneider – 37
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Jose Diaz – 27
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Jacqueline Hernandez – 30
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Tiffany Salazar – 20
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Isai Ocampo – 28
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Christopher Denman – 27
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Sergeant Kelly Olson – 10
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Sergeant James Nabors – 14
  • California Highway Patrol, Fort Tejon Officer Jeffrey Burdick – 9
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Alejandro Zuniga – 31
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Sean Galloway – 26
  • McFarland Police Department Officer Roberto Souza Moita – 26
  • McFarland Police Department Officer Marisela Herrera – 26
  • Ridgecrest Police Department Officer Matthew Rowland – 9
  • Shafter Police Department Officer Anthony Erwin – 16
  • Shafter Police Department Officer William Draucker – 16
  • Taft Police Department Officer Chris Gonzales – 5

MADD AWARDS

Between 50 and 99 DUI arrests in 2017

  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Johnny Moreno – 93
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Andrew Marquez – 82
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Robert Tyo – 67
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Brandon Carey – 62
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Imadd Nuriddin – 50
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Jason Carroll – 60
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Art Aldrete – 91
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jose Bravo – 51
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jaime Cervantes – 73
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Daniel Dinsing – 76
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Matthew Iturriria – 82
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Mike Galvez – 70
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Gregory Jorgensen – 71
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Ahearn Lucas – 81
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Brandon Matthews – 72
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Eric Medrano – 70
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Hector Organista – 74
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Victor Valadez – 58
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jessie Velasquez – 83
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Juan Vidal – 54
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jason Wood – 67

———

MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles nominated as ‘Corporation of the Year’ in 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Awards

June 6, 2018 | 8:44 am


For its work and partnership with the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness of DUI crimes and help put an end to them locally, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was nominated for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award.

The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm was nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference. The Beautiful Bakersfield Awards annually honors the efforts of local individuals, groups, businesses and organizations that help improve the quality of life in Bakersfield.

Learn more about the Chain | Cohn | Stiles partnership and the awards.

 

NO MORE VICTIMS 

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has played a vital part of Kern County’s community for decades and has played a key part in making a significant impact locally. In fact, a significant portion of the company’s energy and budget is dedicated toward giving back to Bakersfield, and actively participating in campaigns that aim to make our community a better, safer place to live. Attorneys and staff log hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours, belonging to local boards of directors and nonprofits, and actively helping with various local causes.

In particular, the law firm has worked closely with victims’ rights groups, specifically Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. The law firm and its staff have been key organizers of MADD Kern County’s annual events, helping raise nearly $250,000 in the last five years in the fight to end drunk and drugged driving locally.

“Without the contributions of the law firm, MADD Kern County would not be able to do its work in our community,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County.

The law firm’s professional focus is assisting and helping people move forward after they have been seriously injured due to the fault of someone else, and many times it’s due to the negligent conduct of another. Impaired driving is an epidemic in Kern County, which sees more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Sadly, many impaired drivers aren’t stopped in time, and instead cause major damage to innocent lives. So, Chain | Cohn | Stiles partnered with the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness of this issue, and help put an end to DUI driving locally.

The Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash in Bakersfield — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — has become the largest fundraising runs locally, and one of the largest such MADD events in the country. The event brings together more than 1,000 people each year including surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, our local media, and other community leaders and members. They come together to say, “Enough is enough,” and, “No more victims.”

All funds raised from this event stay in Kern County to raise awareness of the DUI problem 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. This year’s event will be held Sept. 29, at Park at River Walk.

Victims and community members share how much they appreciate the work of MADD Kern County and the work of volunteers like those at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. As an example, take the family of Leslie Balderrama, a Tehachapi teenager who was struck and killed by a DUI driver in 2015. The law firm represented the family in the wrongful death case and connected the family with MADD Kern County. This connection allowed the family to form a network with others who experienced similar circumstances, was assisted through the foreign court process, and gave the family an opportunity to heal and give back. The family donated $2,500 to MADD Kern County in 2017, and the law firm matched that donation.

“When we became victims of a DUI crime, MADD Kern County became our advocate and worked hard to make sure we had a voice, and treated our family with compassion,” said Denise Natividad, mother of Leslie Balderrama. “We’re able to give back now and help another local family who unfortunately will have to deal with the aftermath of the actions of a drunk or drugged driver.”

 

OSCARS OF BAKERSFIELD

Dubbed the “Oscars of Bakersfield,” the 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Awards highlighted over 120 nominees in 15 categories, making this year the largest nominee class for the event.

In the end, the winner of the “Corporation of the Year” category was Jim Burke Ford Lincoln. According the chamber, “this automotive company launched the Ford Dimension and Dream Builders programs as a way to provide service and leadership opportunities for local youth. It also selects a company charity that its employees volunteer to support throughout the year.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles was has been nominated once before. In 2016, the law firm was nominated in the “Renovation/Tenant Improvement” category for its work in helping revitalize downtown Bakersfield with a six-month, seven-figure renovation of an old 30,000 square-foot building.

———

MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles ‘gives big’ to local nonprofits in Kern County’s giving event

May 30, 2018 | 9:49 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles ‘gives big’ to local nonprofits in Kern County’s giving event

Editor’s Note: As May 2018 comes to a close, we take a look back at Give Big Kern, our community’s day of giving that took place on May 1. Chain | Cohn | Stiles was glad to play a role in fundraising, and the law firm was able to donate to two worthy nonprofits: MADD Kern County and Bike Bakersfield. Learn more about this annual community event below. 

———

It proved to be record-breaking year for Give Big Kern, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles was thrilled to play a part in the annual community giving event.

As May comes to an end, Give Big Kern officials released results for Give Big Kern 2018 and the total raised in the crowd-funding campaign came to $231,000 for 119 local nonprofits. Quite a feat, considering the inaugural Give Big Kern in 2016 raised $176,000, making this year’s campaign a record.

As part of the festivities, Chain | Cohn | Stiles donated to two worthy local causes — organizations that adhere to worthwhile missions that resonate with the law firm, and ultimately aim to make our community a safer place. For media coverage on donations, scroll to the bottom of this post.

  • The law firm donated $2,000 for Bike Bakersfield’s Project Light up the Night program, which gives out free safety helmets and bike lights in areas of Bakersfield where they are needed the most. The donation was presented to Bike Bakersfield Executive Director Jack Becker before the group’s “Bike Month Kickoff Lunch Ride.” Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Bike Bakersfield in the Project Light up the Night safety program for the past several years, and you can read more about it here.
  • And Chain | Cohn | Stiles donated $10,000 to MADD Kern County to help raise awareness of the DUI problem 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. The donation was presented to MADD Kern County’s Victim Services Specialist Carla Pearson. The law firm is a longtime partner of MADD Kern County, and you can read more about the partnership here.

At the end of Give Big Kern, MADD Kern County raised the fourth most in all of Kern County, while Bike Bakersfield ranked No. 15. The day-long event, organized by the Kern Community Foundation, consisted of the “ringing in” of the day with Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh at the Liberty Bell downtown, a proclamation by the Kern County Board of Supervisors, and celebrations at Rusty’s Pizza and Temblor Brewing Company.

———

MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolves wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of family of motorcyclist killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy patrol car

May 9, 2018 | 9:34 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has reached a settlement with the County of Kern on behalf of the family of a motorcyclist who was killed in 2015 when a Kern County Sheriff’s patrol car abruptly made a turn against a red light directly into his path.

The crash involving 59-year-old Larry Maharrey garnered media attention as it was the fourth fatality in as many years involving a Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle.

The parties agreed to a $3.8 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit.

“These are tragic cases where you have individuals who are completely innocent who were killed in traffic collisions. Those are the types of accidents that shouldn’t happen, especially involving officers who are trained to protect these very same people,” said Matt Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney for the family.

Clark continued: “It’s incredibly unfortunate an innocent man died. Maharrey’s family is satisfied with the resolution, but it’s not like the resolution will bring him back.”

On July 14, 2015, Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road in Oildale, when the deputy 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 the patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.

The California Highway Patrol determined that Sgt. Marvin Gomez and Maharrey did not become visible to each other until 0.87 seconds before the collision because other vehicles blocked their view. CHP had recommended a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge against Gomez, but the District Attorney’s office declined to file a criminal charge. Chain | Cohn | Stiles contends that Deputy Gomez violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light.

Maharrey’s death came 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 in 2014, also in the Oildale area. This case is ongoing. Less than four years before Maharrey’s death, Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were killed when Kern County sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin struck and killed them as they pushed a motorcycle across Norris Road. Swearengin was traveling at more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone, without activating his emergency lights or siren. The case, also represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, settled in March 2014 for $8.8 million.

For more than 20 years, Maharrey worked for Golden State Drilling as a diesel mechanic. 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, of course, riding his motorcycle.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Kern County votes Chain | Cohn | Stiles as ‘Best Law Firm’ in 2018 Readers’ Choice Poll

May 2, 2018 | 10:31 am


The 2018 “Best of Kern County” winners have been announced, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been selected by the people in our community as the winner in the “Best Law Firm” category.

This is the sixth year in a row that the law firm has been selected into the “Best Law Firm” category — each year since the category was introduced to The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers’ Choice Poll. The results were unveiled in the new annual “Best Of” issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine.

“We are grateful and thankful for the votes from the people of Kern County, who we aim to help day in and day out,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn. “What an honor! A sincere ‘thank you’ goes out to all those who voted, and have supported the law firm over the years.”

For 25 years, TBC Media has conducted the Best Of Readers’ Choice Poll to showcase the people, places and things that make Kern County truly unique.

“To be named a ‘Best Of’ winner or favorite is to be among elite company – a distinction granted by the people who call this place home,” Bakersfield Life Magazine writes.

You can see the full results of the poll online here, or in the magazine version here.

Bakersfield Life Magazine editor Mark Nessia, in speaking about the winners, stated it best in his Editor’s Note:

“Best Of is 100 percent voter-driven. These are your family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers sharing what they feel is the finest our city and county have to offer.”

He continued: “The reputations these people, places and businesses have built over the years — some long before Best Of even existed — comes as the result of hard work and the commitment to serving the community as best as they can. Their place within the pages of Best Of issues past and present are well-earned and many proudly display their Best Of certificates for all to see.”

Indeed, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is one of the oldest personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm in Bakersfield. And our staff and lawyers hear often from clients who are thankful for the services provided by us. We invite you to visit our “Reviews and Testimonials” page to watch video testimonials from real former clients who have retained our law firm to represent them in tragic times. Additionally, you can read actual reviews left by clients on Facebook, Google and Yelp. Our clients have also written us testimonials sharing about their experience, and even sent us “thank you” cards.

And you can find our Best Of certificate displayed proudly in our law firm lobby.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured at work, no matter whose fault it is, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles — the best law firm in Kern County — by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website 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.

Kern County Sheriff’s comments from leaked video on cost of deadly force causes controversy

April 18, 2018 | 9:53 am


A video released recently showing Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood telling an employees union that it is better “financially” to kill suspects than to “cripple” them has sparked controversy locally and nationwide.

In the one-minute video filmed in 2006 during his first campaign for sheriff, Youngblood is seen seated at a table discussing deputy trainings and the cost to the sheriff’s office due to police violence.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark discussed Youngblood’s comments recently while on The Richard Beene Show on KERN Radio 1180, 96.1. You can listen to the full interview here.

The Bakersfield Californian described a portion of the video:

Youngblood, in response to a question about officer training, said that detention deputies are trained more extensively than they used to be because of the cost the county faces when deputies kill or injure a person.

“There’s a good reason for that: millions and millions of dollars,” Youngblood said. “You know what happens if a guy makes a bad shooting on somebody — kills them,” Youngblood said. “Three million bucks and the family goes away.”

It’s “a totally different ballgame” when it happens in a jail to an inmate who is in restraints and surrounded by multiple officers, Youngblood said.

“It’s no different than when a deputy shoots someone on the streets, which way do you think is better financially? To cripple them or kill them, for the county,” Youngblood asks.

“Kill them,” said a voice from the audience.

“Absolutely,” Youngblood replies. “Because if we cripple them we get to take care of them for life, and that cost goes way up.”

The comments from the video were related to a discussion about the 2005 in-custody beating death of James Moore, who was beaten by several Kern County detentions deputies. That wrongful death case, represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Moore’s family, resulted in a $6 million settlement. The killing also led to criminal charges against the deputies.

Lawyer Matt Clark said Youngblood’s comments speak to a culture within the sheriff’s department that life is not valued, and shared that families of victims of wrongful death at the hands of sheriff’s deputies — of which there have been several in recent years — are upset over the sheriff’s comments.

“Doesn’t that provide a mindset in that department that human life isn’t worth that much?” Clark said. “Having represented families who have lost loved ones due to the negligent and sometimes criminal conduct of the sheriff’s department, I can tell you (the families of victims) are not pleased to hear that.”

Specifically, Clark discussed several wrongful death, civil rights, and excessive force cases represented in recent years by Chain | Cohn | Stiles:

  • Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were pushing the motorcycle to a relative’s house crossing Norris Road in Oildale when they were struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy patrol car, speeding with lights and sirens off. The wrongful death case settled for $8.8 million.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when a Kern County Sheriff’s Office patrol car operated by Deputy Nicholas Clerico struck and killed her.
  • On July 14 2015, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road when a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy 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.
  • 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. A wrongful death lawsuit settlement was reached in May 2016 for $3.4 million.

In most of these cases, deputies suffered little consequences or punishment despite breaking department policies in the situations that led to these tragic deaths, Clark said.

This isn’t the first time the Kern County Sheriff’s Office has been the center of controversy for its practices and history of deadly force.

In December 2015, The Guardian publication unveiled its five-part series that examined the use of deadly force, rough justice, sexual misconduct cases and other issues involving “America’s deadliest police” of Kern County. Then in 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California published a report following a two-year study that concluded law enforcement agencies in Kern County have engaged in patterns of excessive force and systematically violated the civil rights of local residents. The California Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating patterns of excessive force and civil rights violations in Kern County’s departments.

———

If you or someone you know is the victim of excessive force, police misconduct, or other civil rights violations, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Even in cases of cancer, workers receive little help from state workers’ compensation system in road to recovery

March 28, 2018 | 6:00 am


Editor’s Note: The following article appeared as a Community Voices article in the Opinion section of The Bakersfield Californian on March 26, 2018. To read the article in print format or online, scroll down to the “Media Coverage” section. 

———

Even in cases of cancer, workers receive little help from state system in road to recovery

By Beatriz A Trejo

When we think of work injuries and workers’ compensation we typically think of slip-and-falls, car accidents, or perhaps back pain associated with lifting heavy objects.

What we often ignore are “progressive insidious diseases,” with cancer being one of the most aggressive and feared of these diseases. Recently, the San Francisco Fire Department reported a spike in their breast cancer rates, reporting that 15 percent of the department’s female firefighters between the ages of 40 and 50 had been diagnosed with cancer. That number is six times that of the national average. And, according to the American Cancer Society, occupational exposure to carcinogens accounts for 4 percent of all cancers in the United States.

So what is being done to help the hard working people in California? Sadly, very little.

For some professions, the California Labor Code finds cancer to be presumptively caused by work factors – these professions include firefighters and law enforcement officers. When cancer is found to have an industrial link, the disease is treated within the workers’ compensation system. But even when the cancer is found to be industrial, the injured worker is only entitled to a maximum of two years of wage replacement, which is only paid at two-thirds of their average weekly wages. At the end of the two years, an injured worker can expect payment of “permanent disability” at a maximum of $290 per week, which ends after a specified period of time.

Sadly, the worse aspect of treating cancer in the workers’ compensation system is the delay in medical treatment, which is subject to “utilization review.” In in its most basic form, utilization review allows insurance carriers to deny or delay medical treatment by having a “medical professional” review requests for treatment, and make a decision on the necessity of the request without ever seeing the patient or reviewing an entire medical file. At that point, the injured worker’s only option is to appeal the denial of treatment to an “independent medical review,” which is another blind review by another unknown “medical professional.”

By now, you should be asking yourself, “How is this legal?” And if you are not, you probably should. A work injury can happen to anyone – a day laborer, an office worker, a public servant – and it could be anything from a muscle strain to terminal cancer. In any case, when the injury is work related, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy of the injured worker, often trapping people in endless delays and denials of medical treatment and very little payout at the end.

Think about this – and our own hard working, injured firefighters and police officers in Bakersfield and Kern County – next time a Senate Bill or a proposition relating to workers’ compensation is on the ballot.

Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney at the Bakersfield-based injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. She was named “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar, and is a volunteer for Bakersfield’s Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation for Community Wellness.

———

*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.

———

MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles investigator discusses importance of active shooter trainings

February 28, 2018 | 8:49 am


It’s a somber thought, but one that unfortunately is important to think about in our current times: What would you do if you were confronted with a situation involving an active shooter?

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, KERO-23 News interviewed several local officials — including Chain | Cohn | Stiles investigator Ray Pruitt — regarding active shooter training and safety plans at Bakersfield and Kern County schools.

Pruitt, who has nearly 25 years of experience in law enforcement and investigations, stresses the importance of trainings, at schools or otherwise, to better prepare on how to react in the instance of a shooting.

To watch the news segment, click the video above or click here to visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube page.

The odds that you will be a victim of a mass shooting are low. But experts say mass shootings have become so frequent and deadly in the United States that people should think in advance about how they will respond if the unthinkable happens.

For this reason, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to share some potentially life-saving tips — with the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — on what you should do if you are ever witness to an active shooter scenario.

1) Evacuate: If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent people from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.

2) Hide Out: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely
to find you.

  • Your hiding place should be out of the active shooter’s view, provide protection if shots are fired in your direction, and not trap you or restrict your options for movement.
  • To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place, lock the door and blockade the door with heavy furniture.
  • If the active shooter is nearby, lock the door, silence your cell phones, turn off any source of noise, Hide behind large items, and remain quiet.
  • If evacuation and hiding out are not possible, remain calm and dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location. If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.

3) Take Action: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her.
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons.
  • Yelling.
  • Committing to your actions.

As Pruitt mentioned in the KERO-23 interview, it’s important to prepare for an active shooter situation beforehand, create a plan, and conduct training exercises. Steps to do this are also covered by the Department of Homeland Security active shooter booklet, which you can view by clicking here.

But, in short, ways to prepare for and prevent an active shooter situation include the following:

  • Ensure that your facility has at least two evacuation routes.
  • Post evacuation routes in conspicuous locations throughout your facility.
  • Include local law enforcement and first responders during training exercises.
  • Encourage law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams, and bomb squads to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.
  • Foster a respectful workplace.
  • Be aware of indications of workplace violence, and take remedial actions accordingly.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.