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.

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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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles featured in Bakersfield Life Magazine as ‘Hall of Fame’ inductee

July 31, 2019 | 6:00 am


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. As part of the honor, Bakersfield Life Magazine featured the three recipients in its August issue, which also included Urner’s, a local furniture store celebrating 100 years this year, and Jim Burke Ford, a local Ford dealership and one of the largest such dealerships in the country. 

You can read the magazine article below, or view the feature in the magazine version by clicking here

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85 years later, local ‘Hall of Fame’ law firm stays community-focused

The year is 1934. The great Dust Bowl storm is sweeping across the Great Plains, Donald Duck premieres on television, and the FBI kills Bonnie and Clyde in a shootout.

It’s also the year Morris B. Chain first set up shop in the Haberfelde Building in downtown Bakersfield. The Russian immigrant who grew up in Bakersfield had earned his law degree from University of Southern California and struggled to find a law firm that would hire a fresh-faced attorney. It was, after all, during the Great Depression era when “help wanted” signs were nowhere to be found. So, he opened his own law practice, and began laying the foundation for what would become one of Central Valley’s most prominent and longstanding law firms, one whose mission became to fight for the everyday working man and woman during their time of greatest need.

The firm’s name changed through the years, but several things remained constant, most obvious is the Chain namesake. Today the firm is known as Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Another constant? For 85 years, the firm has been firmly cemented in downtown Bakersfield, dedicated to helping Kern County’s residents, not only through accident and injury legal work, but also through community service.

“We do what we do because we care about our community, and the people in it,” said David Cohn, managing partner of the firm that today focuses on accident and injury law. “This is our hometown. We want to make sure we help our local residents in and out of our office.”

Out of the office, attorneys and employees at the firm serve as members of committee and boards of directors for numerous local nonprofit and goodwill groups.

The law firm is the presenting sponsor for the annual MADD Kern County “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash,” which since 2014 has raised more than $300,000 to fund MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, raise awareness of our area’s DUI epidemic, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

Partnering with local bicycle advocacy group Bike Bakersfield, they have given out thousands of free bicycle lights, helmets, and safety lessons to promote bike safety throughout Kern County.

Several years ago, Chain | Cohn | Stiles donated $200,000 to establish Adventist Health’s Burn Center, and earlier this year donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic, benefiting the job skills training program and street cleaning team concentrated in downtown Bakersfield.

Kern County appreciates the work. 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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has earned honors for its legal work, too. The law firm was selected into the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, attorneys David Cohn and James Yoro were recognized in the “Best Lawyers in America” program, the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world.

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 current law firm partners 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 all, 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: ‘Standing for Justice’ in Kern County for 85 Years

June 26, 2019 | 6:00 am


The year is 1934. The great Dust Bowl storm is sweeping across the Great Plains of the United States. Donald Duck premieres on television. And the FBI kills Bonnie and Clyde in a shootout in a Louisiana.

It’s also the year Morris B. Chain first set up shop in the Haberfelde Building in downtown Bakersfield. The Russian immigrant who grew up in Bakersfield had recently earned his law degree from University of Southern California and struggled to find a law firm that would hire a fresh-faced attorney. It was, after all, during the Great Depression era when “help wanted” signs were nowhere to be found. So, he made his own opportunity. He opened his own law practice, and began laying the foundation for what would become one of Central Valley’s most prominent and longstanding law firms, one whose mission became to fight for the everyday working man and woman.

The firm’s name has changed through the years — using variations of the law firm partners, including “Chain-Younger” for many years — but several things have remained constant. The most obvious: the Chain namesake has remained, and the firm today is known Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Another constant: For 85 years, the firm has been firmly cemented in downtown Bakersfield, and its office dedicated to helping our area’s residents in their time of greatest need.

For 2019, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is marking the 85-year anniversary in several ways:

  • The law firm is giving back to the community it has called home for 85 years. The law firm donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic, specifically the homeless center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team focusing on downtown Bakersfield.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles has released several videos focused on the history of the law firm. In the videos, law firm partners David Cohn, Jim Yoro, and Matt Clark share stories of the law firm’s origins, and its values that remain true today. Videos include:
  • The firm is serving as the presenting sponsor for the 2019 “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash” — benefiting the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving — to help raise awareness of the DUI problem locally, help crash victims, and help fundraise for local educational programs.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles is giving away items branded with the firm’s anniversary logo, including bags, portable chargers, and gift cards!
  • The law firm was featured as one of three organizations inducted into the inaugural “Best of Kern County” Hall of Fame, awarded to organizations with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community.
  • More is still to come! Stay tuned for surprises commemorating Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ 85-year anniversary.

As for the history of the law firm, The Bakersfield Californian in 2014 featured an article on what was then the law firm’s 80-year anniversary. You can read that article below, which has been updated to include news from the last five years, as well as several relevant links at the bottom of the page.

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BAKERSFIELD ROOTS

Though born in Russia in 1904, Morris Chain developed his Bakersfield roots early. His father ran a store on 19th Street, and Chain attended Kern County Union High School and Bakersfield Junior College.

At BC, Chain is credited for coming up with the nickname “Renegades” while on the football team. It was in school, too, where Chain developed his love for drama, participating in speech, debate and theater – skills he would use throughout his career in the courtroom.

Known as a showman, Chain was also hard-working and aggressive. Making little money after opening his shop in 1934, he worked long 18-hour days, investigating his own cases with camera and subpoenas in hand. Car-less, he hitched rides with prosecuting attorneys on cases he was defending.

“If young lawyers today had to go through what I went through, I don’t think they would even enter the profession,” he told The Bakersfield Californian in 1976.

The hard work led to success. Chain moved into the Sill Building in 1938, on 18th Street and Chester Avenue, where he would become known for taking on some of the highest-profile criminal cases in the area, while also helping the everyday person.

In Chain’s obituary in 1977, Californian columnist Eddie Griffith wrote that “this stemmed from his continued life-long interest in the ‘little guy’ and the problem of the downtrodden, generally.”

“The greatest compliment you can get is from the little guy you do a lot of work for and who comes up and says thanks, you did a hell of a job,” Chain told The Bakersfield California.

With success, Chain’s team grew.

 

LOCAL LEADING LAWYERS 

The firm’s attorneys would also become servants to the local community, becoming leaders in local and statewide Democratic politics, labor and the arts, following Chain’s lead to serve the hometown. Most of the lawyers through the firm’s 80 years, including today, were either born or raised locally.

In 1936, Chain ran for Kern County District Attorney, but lost. Chain received the coveted Kern County Bench and Bar Award in 1976, recognizing outstanding service to the administration of justice and the legal profession.

In the 1970s, the firm moved over to the building on Truxtun Avenue and M Street. The year Chain died, 1977, he was praised for being “one of the most remarkable men in the history of the community and certainly in the history of the legal community of Kern County,” according to a Californian article on his death.

Through the 1980s, the firm was ahead of the curve in race relations in Bakersfield, including forming relationships with the local Sikh community, and hiring Latino, black and Asian attorneys and staff.  Whites numbered 80 percent of the Kern County population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, but the minority population was ever increasing (today Latinos make up more than 50 percent).

“The firm promoted diversity long before it was even discussed in the mainstream,” said Robert Tafoya, Kern County Superior Court judge and attorney at Chain, Younger, Cohn and Stiles in the 1990s. “They were visionaries in having a diverse workforce.”

Tafoya joined the firm even after opening his own firm, calling the Chain firm “a major player in the community.”

“I was a fly on the wall, watching and asking questions,” Tafoya said. “I learned a lot at the firm about serving the community.”

The firm’s stellar reputation also attracted Gary Ingle – a retired Kern County Superior Court judge and attorney at the firm from the late 1970s to early 1980s.

“In my mind, the firm had the best reputation in town,” Ingle said. “They had flashy cases, but they were smart lawyers who made some good law.”

He continued: “The attorneys at the firm have always advertised themselves as being the working man’s attorney. I think that’s truly the case.”

In the courtroom, the law firm’s staff focused on making the world safer, said David Cohn, current managing attorney.

Since the Chain era, case results at the firm have led to significant changes: oilfield equipment and machinery have been made safer to reduce injuries, child car seats now require crash testing to make them more reliable, and turkey fryers have been revamped to prevent burns and injuries, for example.

Still today, the attorneys at firm remain at the forefront of civil law. The firm continues to take on high-profile wrongful death, work accident, and other personal injury cases.

Among its current lawyers, James Yoro is one of the most veteran workers’ compensation lawyers in the state, having appeared in front of the Supreme Court; Cohn continues to be lead counsel on some of the highest profile civil cases in Kern County; and Matt Clark, 42, has regularly been recognized in legal circles as a top up-and-coming attorney.

 

85 YEARS

At its largest stage, the Chain law firm had 18 attorneys and offered a multitude of legal services including family law and criminal defense. Today, the firm focuses only on accidents, injuries and workers’ compensation cases.

In 1990, the firm moved into the Bank of America building on Truxtun and Chester avenues, where it remained for 25 years. The law firm’s name changed to its current title to Chain | Cohn | Stiles in 2009, and today includes seven attorneys. Continuing a legacy of diversity, the firm includes Yoro, a Filipino; Beatriz Trejo, a rising leader in Kern County’s Latino community; and Tanya Alsheikh, who is fluent in Arabic.

As for advocacy and community commitment, the firm continues to take on cases aimed “to make our world better,” Cohn said, while also donating time and effort to local worthy causes. The firm is a presenting sponsor and organizer of a walk and run hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, gives away hundreds of bicycle lights and safety helmets each year with Bike Bakersfield, and this year donated to a Bakersfield Homeless Center program to combat our area’s homeless epidemic.

Through the years, it was important to keep the Chain name on the firm’s masthead as a symbol to local civic and community effort, Cohn said.

“The name takes us back to our roots,” Cohn said. “Morris Chain’s mission to stand up for the little guy is what founded this firm, and influences everything we do 85 years later – even those of us coming after him. It’s the guiding principal of everything we do.”

In 2015, the firm moved into a 30,000-square-foot historical building at 18th Street and Chester Avenue – occupied previously by the Goodwill Industries of South Central California.

“This move came at a special time, as we celebrated our 80th anniversary,” Cohn told media during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building. “We hope this new office will better serve our clients, and will help in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Bakersfield. And we look forward to serving Kern County for another 80 years.”

In recent year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been 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 law firm has also been selected for inclusion in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report.

Still, the new home of the firm is stark contrast to the way Chain first started his career, said local historian Gilbert Gia. But the law firm’s new home will have a view of Chain’s previous homes, including his first office in the Haberfelde building.

“When we look at the law firm today, we see a monolithic edifice, but the law firm started out in humble beginnings,” Gia said. “The firm today, inside of the walls, seems to be sticking to its roots.”

 

THE CHAIN GANG

Here are a few local attorneys, judges and legal professionals who have worked at the law firm founded by Morris Chain:

JUDGES

  • Gary Ingle: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Stephen Schuett: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced at Chain in the 1980s.
  • Louis P. Etcheverry: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced in the 1980s.
  • Robert Tafoya: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced from 1995 to 2002.

CHAIN | COHN | STILES TODAY

  • David Cohn: Current managing partner, having served under the Chain name for nearly 45 years.
  • James Yoro: Partner, managing the workers’ compensation division, who has worked at Chain for 34 years.
  • Matt Clark: Partner, joining the firm in 2006.
  • Associates: Tanya Alsheikh, Chad Boyles, Doug Fitz-Simmons, and Beatriz Trejo.
  • With the exception of Fitz-Simmons, all attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles were raised in Bakersfield.

NO LONGER PRACTICING

  • Paul Busacca: Partner in the 1970s and 1980s, now deceased.
  • Paul Welchans: Practiced at the Chain firm for 30 years, retired in 2012.
  • John Tello: Served at the Chain firm from the early 1980s until 2004.

IN HISTORY

  • Morris B. Chain: Namesake and founder of the Chain law firm; died in 1977.
  • Milton Younger: Joined Chain full time in 1956, and remained at the firm for 53 years; he died in 2018.
  • Timothy Lemucchi: Joined Chain in 1965, and remained at the firm for 30 years; now practices at Law Office of Timothy Lemucchi.
  • Leonard Winters: Investigator working directly with Chain at the firm for more than three decades. He joined Chain after first helping him in 1946 in his unsuccessful campaign for Kern County District Attorney – reportedly one of the only investigators working for an attorney at the time; now deceased.
  • Noriegas: Al Noriega, now deceased, began as a law clerk working directly with Chain. His son, James Edward Noriega, would also go on to work at the firm. He now practices at Law Office of James E. Noriega.
  • Daniel Rodriguez: Worked at the Chain law firm through the 1980s; now practices at Rodriguez & Associates.
  • Others: Rod Williams, Dustin Jameson, Todd Berry, Frank Butkiewicz, Scott Fontes, Stephen Klink, Indra Lahiri.

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‘100 Deadliest Days’: Summer period especially dangerous time for young drivers

May 29, 2019 | 5:04 pm


Did you know that the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 Deadliest Days” in the United States?

During this time span, which largely includes the summertime, our country’s roadways see a sharp increase in automobile fatalities, many involving teen drivers, according to AAA.

For example, in 2016 during this time period more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver. That’s an average of 10 people per day – a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year, according to the AAA.

What are the reasons for the sharp increase?

It’s not that more teens are driving for longer periods in the summer with school out. In fact, driving behavior greatly increases the risk of a crash, AAA states. Distracted driving, inexperience, driving under the influence, not using safety belts, and driving in adverse conditions are the primary reasons.

Bakersfield’s 23ABC News reporter Lezly Gooden examined this annual issue, and discussed what we can do to decrease the numbers. The report also featured Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury Matt Clark, representing MADD Kern County as a board member regarding the alarming DUI-rates in Kern County, which sees more than 4,000 DUI arrests per year. Additionally, Kern County’s rate of DUI-related fatal crashes is the second highest in the country, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

“The statistics are frankly embarrassing for our county,” said Matt Clark in the 23ABC News report. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is deeply involved with MADD Kern County efforts to raise awareness of the local DUI epidemic, and ways to combat the crimes. “It’s embarrassing that we live in a county in California where you are likely to die in a drunk driving accident than almost any other county in the country.”

Additionally, research shows that when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all people increased 51 percent. Speed and nighttime driving are also factors, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.

Here are a few tips for parents of teens and young adult drivers:

  • Evaluate your teen’s readiness. Talk with your teen about personal responsibility, ability to follow rules and any other concerns before beginning the learning-to-drive process.
  • Get informed. Graduated driver licensing, driver education, license restrictions and supervised practice driving are all part of today’s licensing process. And the state of California sets parameters throughout a multi-stage licensing process for young drivers, such as times of day they can drive and how many passengers they can carry.
  • Start talking now. Share any insight that could save your child from having to learn things the hard way. Talk about what it takes to be a safe driver, the rules and responsibilities once they start driving.
  • Focus on passenger safety. Talk to your teen about always buckling up, not riding with a teen driver without your advance permission, and being a safe passenger with teen and adult drivers.
  • Be involved. When you’re behind the wheel, talk about what you see (road signs, pedestrians, other vehicles) that could result in the need to change speed, direction or both. Maintain an ongoing dialogue about your teen’s driving, appropriately restrict driving privileges and conduct plenty of supervised practice driving. California requires that parents and their teens conduct 50 hours of supervised practice driving, including 10 hours at night.
  • Be a good role model. Make changes in your driving to prevent any poor driving habits from being passed on. Show you take driving seriously by always wearing your seat belt, obeying traffic laws, not using a cell phone while driving, watching your speed, not tailgating, using your turn signals, and not driving when angry or tired.
  • Responsible drivers never drive under the influence. As a parent, you can reinforce that message and help steer clear of dangers, including being a passenger of friends who have been drinking. Preventing underage drinking also helps avoid exposure to violence, risky sexual behavior, alcoholism and other serious concerns.

And, as always, share the road with pedestrian, scooter riders, bicyclists and motorcyclists. For more driving safety tips, go to bloggingforjustice.com.

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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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles se junta con la program ‘Despierta Bakersfield’ para educar nuetra comunidad sobre cuestiones legales

May 22, 2019 | 10:00 am


La firma de abogados Chain | Cohn | Stiles se ha asociado con Univision Bakersfield, la estación de televisión en español, para educar a los Latinos locales sobre cuestiones legales, incluido qué hacer si estás en un accidente con algiuen con poco o sin seguro, los peligros de la fiebre del valle en el lugar de trabajo, y la importancia de contratar con abogados de compensación al trabajador que son certificados por el estado.

KABE Univision 39 es la estación de televisión en español más vista en Bakersfield, donde viven casi medio millón de Latinos, lo que representan el 57% de la población total. Para servir a nuestra comunidad, Univision Bakersfield organiza programas de asuntos públicos, como “Te Informa” y “Despierta Bakersfield”, que se centran en temas corrientes como la inmigración, la salud, las leyes, y la educación.

En la promgrama “Despierta América”, abogada asociada de Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Beatriz Trejo, se unió con la anfitriona Ofelia Aguirre para discutir los siguientes temas. Puede ver todos los segmentos a continuación, o en la página de YouTube de Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, la firma de abogados de accidentes, lesiones y compensación al trabajador, tiene dos abogados que están certificados por el estado como especialistas en la ley de compensación al trabajador — Beatriz Trejo y Jim Yoro. La certificación es dado a profesionales legales que han logrado extra los requisitos de licencia. El programa fue el primero de su tipo en los Estados Unidos y ha servido como modelo para otros programas estatales para certificar a especialistas legales en todo el país.

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ENGLISH

Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has partnered with Spanish language television station Univision Bakersfield to educate viewers on various legal issues, including what to do if you’re involved in an accident with little or no insurance, valley fever dangers in the workplace, and the importance of hiring a certified workers’ compensation lawyers in the event of a work injury.

The award-winning KABE Univision 39 is the most watched Spanish-Language television station in Bakersfield, which is home to nearly a half million Hispanics, making up 57% of the total population. To serve our community, Univision Bakersfield hosts public affairs programs, like “Te Informa” and “Despierta Bakersfield,” focused around hot topics including immigration, health, law, and education.

For its “Despierta Bakersfield” show, Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate attorney Beatriz Trejo joined host Ofelia Aguirre to discuss the following topics. You can also watch the segments on the Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube Page.

The Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is home to two lawyers who are state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation law, Beatriz Trejo and James Yoro. The certification is awarded to legal professionals who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements. According to the State Bar, the program was intended to provide a method for attorneys to earn the designation of certified specialist in particular areas of law, increasing public protection and encouraging attorney competence. The program was the first of its kind in the United States, and it has served as a model for other state programs for certifying legal specialists around the nation.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files claim on behalf of family of 8-year-old attacked by dog at school

May 16, 2019 | 10:04 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a claim on behalf of the family of a second-grade student who was bitten on the face by a dog while in her classroom.

Leilani, 8, suffered severe lacerations and tearing to her face when she was attacked by one of two large dogs visiting her classroom on May 9 at Wayside Elementary School (Bakersfield City School District) in south Bakersfield. The dogs belonged to a volunteer reader from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office.

The family alleges in the claim that Bakersfield City School District and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office negligently allowed the volunteer reader to bring into the classroom two dogs, and failed to supervise the dogs in a safe manner. As a result, Leilani suffered severe injuries. The family further alleges that the dog owner is strictly liable pursuant to California Civil Code section 3342 (Dog Bite Statute).

The dogs appear to be similar to Akita or Chow breeds.

This case is a warning to school officials and parents toward allowing animals near young students on school campuses.

“A school should know better than to allow dogs into a second grade classroom.  No matter how gentle the dogs may be, their behavior can be unpredictable,” said Matthew C. Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Unfortunately for Leilani, she is likely to have lifelong facial and lip scarring, and vision difficulties.  Let this be warning to schools, and to dog owners: Do not bring dogs onto school campuses. The risk is simply too great.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what was the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California at the time, according to VerdictSearch, a verdict and settlement database.

UPDATE: AUGUST 2019

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a lawsuit against the Bakersfield City School District on behalf of Leilani Rivera.

“This little girl is scared to go back to school,” attorney Matthew Clark told The Bakersfield Californian. “It’s the last thing you want to see in your kid,” especially someone who “admittedly loved” going to school, Clark added.

A case management conference is scheduled for January 2020, and the trial is expected to be scheduled to begin in the later months of 2020 or early months of 2021.

“We think the system is going to do this young woman justice,” Clark said. “It’s a horribly unfortunate event.”

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If you or someone you know is bitten by a dog, 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

CASE FOLLOW-UP

LAWSUIT FILED

Chain | Cohn | Stiles inducted into first Best of Kern County Hall of Fame class, selected to ‘Best Law Firm’ list

May 1, 2019 | 11:21 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been 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.

In addition, the Bakersfield-based law firm has been selected by people in Kern County as a favorite in the “Best Law Firm” category of the annual Best of Kern County Readers’ Choice Poll by The Bakersfield Californian, unveiled recently in Bakersfield Life Magazine.

“We do what we do because we care about our community, and the people in it,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “This is our hometown. We want to make sure we help our local residents in and out of our office.”

Cohn continued: “We don’t do legal work or community goodwill to receive accolades. Still, we want to thank the people of Kern County for voting us into the Best Law Firm category year after year, and also Bakersfield Life Magazine for selecting us into the first Hall of Fame class. We sincerely appreciate it.”

This is the seventh 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. But for more than 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.

This year, the poll received 100,000 nominations and nearly 325,000 votes.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles was one of three inductees in the inaugural Hall of Fame class, announced during a Bakersfield Life Magazine reception. Ten local companies were nominated for the Hall of Fame. Joining the law firm was Urner’s, a local furniture store celebrating 100 years this year, and Jim Burke Ford, a local Ford dealership and one of the largest such dealerships in the country.

While these three businesses are different, their community giving is what makes them all similar. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is commemorating 85 years of helping accident and injury victims in Bakersfield. The law firm works closely with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, to help DUI crash victims, raise awareness of DUI crimes, and provide educational programs locally. The law firm also partners with Bike Bakersfield year after year to donate hundreds of safety helmets and bicycle lights to students and bike riders in areas of Kern County that need them the most.

Most recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic.

You can see the complete poll results online here, or in the magazine version here. And you can find our Best of Kern County awards displayed proudly in our law firm lobby in downtown Bakersfield. Hall of Fame winners will be highlighted during a “Best of Winners Circle” publication in The Bakersfield Californian.

You can hear from the law firm partners about the award on our Instagram Story video by clicking here.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles donates $10,000 for Bakersfield Homeless Center jobs program

April 3, 2019 | 11:41 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic.

The donation will go toward the homeless center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team focusing on downtown Bakersfield. In short, the program helps homeless center residents move forward with their lives while making a difference in our community. The program is designed to be a transitional program, where participants gain real-world skills, build confidence, and develop experience to find long-term employment.

The donation comes on the heels of a Kern County Homeless Collaborative report that found a 50 percent increase in the local homeless population over last year’s count, with over 1,330 people locally experiencing homelessness. Large efforts by City of Bakersfield and Kern County to tackle the issue are underway.

“Sadly, we see the effects of homelessness every day on the streets in downtown Bakersfield and outside our own office,” said David Cohn, managing partner of the law firm. “If there is something we can all do to help homeless center residents out of homelessness, while at the same time making sure our city is presented as the jewel that it is, then we should all help. All downtown businesses are impacted by homelessness, and I would encourage others to step forward, and help support a solution.”

Added Louis Gill, executive director of the Bakersfield Homeless Center: “The dedication of Chain | Cohn | Stiles to invest in our community and the lives of everyone who lives in it is on full display as they lead the way with support for our Downtown Street Ambassador program.  We are grateful for their partnership in this program which provides employment opportunities for people seeking to improve their lives, beautifies areas around downtown businesses, and reaches out to homeless individuals through compassion and resources.”

Currently, there are more than 80 people participating in the homeless center’s jobs program. The Downtown Street Ambassadors program was first implemented by the Downtown Bakersfield Development Corporation in partnership with Bakersfield Homeless Center, Garden Pathways, The Mission at Kern County and Keep Bakersfield Beautiful.

The donation also falls on the 85-year anniversary for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which has been housed consistently in downtown Bakersfield during its history – from the Haberfelde Building, to the Sill Building, Bank of America, and its current home today.

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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