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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with ‘El Gallito’ radio station to help listeners with legal issues

January 31, 2018 | 9:52 am


In an effort to raise awareness throughout Kern County on how to protect you and your families in the case of an injury or accident, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with a local Spanish radio station to provide legal insight during interviews.

The 30-minute interviews will run once per month on KCHJ “El Gallito” 1010 AM and 92.1 FM, a radio station that broadcasts primarily ranchera and Norteño  oldies reaching Bakersfield, Delano and extending throughout other Central Valley areas, such as Visalia and Tulare.

It’s hosted by local radio and TV personality Pepe Reyes, who has also hosted the morning show “Despierta Bakersfield” on Univision.

The first 30-minute interview, featuring Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate workers’ compensation attorney Beatriz Trejo, will air at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7, on KCHJ “El Gallito” 1010 AM and 92.1 FM.

The goal of the show and partnership is to assist radio station listeners who need help with their potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation* cases.

Questions answered by Trejo on the first show included:

  • What do you do if you’re injured at work, and what steps should you take?
  • What if I’m hurt and I am not a citizen?
  • How does Chain Cohn Stiles stand out compared to other law firms?

Future interviews with Pepe Reyes will continue to feature Beatriz Trejo, who will answer listeners legal questions and provide insight on legal issues of the day. The shows will also feature Chain | Cohn | Stiles director of marketing and public relations Jorge Barrientos, who will discuss the law firm’s work throughout the community that includes combating DUI crimes, and increasing pedestrian and bicycle safety, among other efforts.

Recently, you might have seen Pepe Reyes when he helped re-enact “El Grito de Dolores” Mexican Independence chant during the annual celebration in September in downtown Bakersfield, hosted by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Trejo, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, has also become a regular of sorts on El Show De Cascabel, a Spanish language show on 96.9 FM, as well as on Radio Lazer, 106.5 FM. On those shows, as well, she discusses the law firm’s services, and answers questions from listeners.

Trejo earned her bachelor’s degree from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree from Cal State Northridge. She earned her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio. Before joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Trejo was a defense attorney who practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board — she is familiar with the inner workings of insurance companies, insurance carriers, and self-insured employers. She is currently the president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter. She is also the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.

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Click the link below to listen to the interview with Beatriz Trejo on El Gallito with Pepe Reyes:

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If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation at 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’s ‘Immigration Justice Collaborative’ aims to educate community on legal rights

January 24, 2018 | 10:06 am


The following “President’s Message” was published in the April 2017 issue of the Res Ipsa Loquitur, a monthly news magazine from the Kern County Bar Association. It was written by Kern County Bar Association president James Yoro, who is also a partner and workers’ compensation attorney at the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. The article focuses on immigration policy in the United States, which continues to be a topic of debate today, and highlights a group of local lawyers — including Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys — aiming to educate our community on their rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, separation of powers, and the status of changes in immigration policy. 

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Immigration Justice Collaborative

By James A. Yoro

At my installation dinner in January, I announced that “service” would be the theme for my year as president of the Kern County Bar Association. In my speech, I asked every attorney in our organization to make a commitment to provide voluntary service to our profession and our community.

In February, I attended an event initiated by Judge Robert Tafoya (with the help of the KCBA’s Multicultural Bar Alliance) that brought together members of the Bench and Bar with representatives of multiple local educational programs that promoted responsible citizenship in order to support, develop and encourage a partnership that would benefit our local youth and our profession. I was surprised to see how well attended this event was by both Bench and Bar especially since it was the first time such an event was organized. I felt encouraged that my theme for the year was being taken seriously by so many members of our organization.

Last month in my president’s message for the Res Ipsa Loquitir, I commented about the uplifting example of lawyers around the country volunteering their services to individuals who were harshly affected by the Trump Executive Order on immigration. Little did I know at the time that there was a movement being initiated by a group of local attorneys who are also doing the same thing here in Kern County. They called themselves the Immigration Justice Collaborative. When I found out about their efforts, I contacted Beto Sala who was one of the organizers of this assemblage of lawyers. He immediately welcomed me and my associate’s participation and invited me to attend an upcoming town hall meeting that was being staged at the CSU Bakersfield campus. When I arrived at the event, I was astonished to see a standing room only crowd of more than 300 people packed into the auditorium listening intently to the presentations being given by more than 15 attorneys with diverse law practices all volunteering their time in order to educate a sometimes frightened and confused public. Numerous attorneys stayed well after the event was over in order to respond to the individual questions that many in the audience did not want to ask publicly.

Afterwards, I asked Beto to tell me more about the Immigration Justice Collaborative and here is the information he provided:

“The IJC was created in mid-November 2016 in response to widespread uncertainty regarding the status of non-citizens in the United States. After the election, there were many instances of children being mocked and bullied at school. Children were being told that they and their parents would be deported and that a great wall would be built to keep them out. Many people were told there would be mass raids and deportations. This created an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and racist treatment towards immigrants. In response, a group of lawyers convened to establish the IJC, which is comprised of local attorneys who practice in diverse fields of law, including immigration, civil rights, employment law, criminal defense and family law. All the lawyers are volunteers. The goal of the IJC is to reach out to communities affected by the President’s executive orders to inform them of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the significance of the rule of law, separation of powers, and the status of changes in immigration policy. Each presentation consists of 12 or more lawyers. Thus far, the IJC has been to east Bakersfield, Lamont, Delano and CSUB. The IJC has reached over 1,000 members of the community and is expected to reach thousands more in the near future. The response by the community has been overwhelmingly favorable. There are numerous pending requests from other communities in Kern County to conduct attorney presentations. Recently, the IJC sent a letter to each principal of every school in Kern County, which was signed by 19 lawyers. The letter places the schools on notice of the legal requirements of protecting students against bullying by other students who resort to racially derogatory remarks and attacks. The California Endowment has funded a film documentary of the efforts of the IJC. We have been informed by the producers of the film that the IJC is unprecedented, and consequently they intend to distribute the film nationwide.”

It is my understanding that the IJC will soon have a website and Facebook page that the public can access.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and commend the attorneys involved for their selfless commitment to the public and to the profession.

The following lawyers are members of the Immigration Justice Collaborative (IJC):

  • H.A. Sala
  • David Torres
  • Daniel Rodriguez
  • RL Hutchison
  • Vanessa Sanchez
  • Beatriz Trejo
  • Edgar Aguilasocho
  • Edyta Christina Grzybowska-Grant
  • Emilio Huerta
  • Emily Milnes
  • Gabriel Godinez
  • Gabriela Lopez
  • Win Eaton
  • Xochitl Garcia
  • Joel Andreesen
  • Mai Shawwa
  • Sarah Rich
  • Marcos Vargas
  • Monica Bermudez
  • Richard Rivera
  • Claudia Lopez
  • David Leon
  • Jose Guerrero

Keep up the good work. You are all an exceptional example of why I am so proud to be a lawyer in this community.

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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 moves forward in case of alleged sexual abuse at Kern County juvenile hall

January 17, 2018 | 10:32 am


In an ongoing pursuit of justice for several victims of sexual assault by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while they were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed an appeal in one of the cases. 

In an ongoing pursuit of justice for several victims of sexual assault by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while they were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed an appeal in one of the cases.

The appeal filed by attorney Neil Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, along with Los Angeles-based lawyer Thomas C. Seabaugh, who are representing the victim, was filed recently in response to the court’s summary judgment.

Chain Cohn Stiles issued the following statement in response to media inquiries:

“Our client alleges that she was propositioned for sex by a juvenile corrections officer at Juvenile Hall, who also engaged in voyeurism by watching her in the shower on multiple occasions. She is one of three former wards who we have represented, all of whom alleged that they were the victims of sexual misconduct by corrections officers at juvenile hall.

“The federal district court ruled in December in this case that even if our client’s allegations were true, that the conduct she alleged would not violate the constitution. We are currently in the process of appealing that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Civil rights cases against law enforcement are often protracted and difficult, but we remain committed to obtaining justice for our client.”

The victim alleges in a lawsuit that Juvenile Hall corrections officer George Anderson sexually abused her and watched her shower. She is one of three alleged victims of sexual abuse by corrections officers at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. In addition to seeking damages, the victim alleges that she was failed by the deficient oversight, training, and practices at Kern’s juvenile hall, which provided the perpetrator with opportunities that he was able to exploit.

“The fact that we have three girls … who have come forward to report sexual abuse by corrections officers, points to systemic problems at juvenile hall, and not just a few bad apples,” Gehlawat told local media upon the filing of the lawsuits in September 2016.

Seabaugh added: “The purpose of these victims’ stay at juvenile hall was to help them to get back on the path towards a normal life. Instead, law enforcement officers exploited their power and authority over these girls, who already represent some of the most vulnerable members of our society, with devastating consequences for the survivors and their families. This lawsuit is in the public interest, because it involves accountability and consequences for those who were responsible.”

* Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

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If you or someone you know if sexually abused by someone in power, contact our lawyers right away. Call 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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Awards, goodwill, and a goodbye in 2017; Work for justice and safety continues in 2018

January 10, 2018 | 10:41 am


The following was sent recently to those subscribed to the Chain | Cohn | Stiles e-newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive future notices, please click here

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A Happy New Year from our Chain | Cohn | Stiles family to yours! As Maya Angelou said, “The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”

Before we move ahead, we wanted to share some law firm news and notes from 2017 with you:

  • It was a year of awards and achievements at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Here are just a few:
    • Associate attorney Beatriz was named “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar.
    • The law firm received a “Kern Green Award” for going above and beyond to make a positive environmental impact in Kern County.
    • For the fifth year straight, the law firm was voted among the “Best of Kern County” in the “Best Law Firm” category, as was managing partner David K. Cohn for “Best Lawyer”.
  • Milton Younger, a former esteemed attorney and partner who spent 53 years at the law firm, died in September. We remember his legacy.
  • The fourth annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash,” presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, brought together 1,000-plus and raised over $80,000 to fight against DUI crimes locally.

Today, hard work continues at the law firm, including the following:

Looking ahead into 2018, please join us in the following:

  • Voting in the 2018 “Best of Kern County” poll begins Jan. 16 and runs until Jan. 28, and we’re proud to share that we’ve been nominated once again. We wholeheartedly appreciate your vote and support.
  • We’re the presenting sponsor for the 2018 Bakersfield “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash”, which will be held Sept. 29, at Park at River Walk. Join us in the ongoing fight against DUI crimes.
  • Keep up with Chain | Cohn | Stiles activities throughout the year by following our various social media pages listed below, as well as our blog, Blogging For Justice.

Finally, we all wish you a healthy and happy 2018!

All the best,

Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ attorney James Yoro highlights life of a paralegal in Kern County Bar Association’s magazine

December 13, 2017 | 9:45 am


The following “President’s Message” was published in the December 2017 issue of the Res Ipsa Loquitur, a monthly news magazine from the Kern County Bar Association. It was written by Kern County Bar Association president James Yoro, who is also a partner and workers’ compensation attorney at the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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‘With a little help from my friends’

Most lawyers would like to believe that the primary reason for the success they’ve achieved in their practice is due to their own hard work and effort. However, when asked for a realistic assessment of their situation, most lawyers will admit that a crucial part of their success depends on their support staff. Depending on the type of practice one has, a paralegal/legal assistant may play a vital role in that success. In my own practice, I depend on my legal assistant Lesleigh Johnston, to perform many essential functions that contribute to the successful outcome of my cases. In fact, I consider her to be an indispensable member of my firm, who is as valuable as the associate attorney who also works with me. Therefore, I would like to give special recognition to all of those hard-working paralegals and legal assistants that make our jobs easier by devoting my message this month to them.

There are many ways that one can become a paralegal. Depending on one’s background, training and education, a paralegal may be able to handle many aspects of the legal process or the workup of the file. For example, my legal assistant was previously employed for more than 10 years as an insurance adjuster with a major workers compensation insurance carrier before she came to work for me. Because of this experience, she was well-equipped to evaluate cases and understood the nuances of how a workers compensation file should be handled from beginning to end.

Since building an effective legal team is important in order to serve the best interests of the clients and achieve success in one’s practice, what should one look for when hiring a paralegal?  I asked this and several other questions to two of the paralegals in our firm, Barbara Hass and Donna Wilkins, and here were their answers:

 

What background, education, and/or training did you have in order to become a paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

Background: 37 years in the legal field.  I began my career as a legal secretary in 1980.  In 1985 I became a civil defense paralegal for Art Pearl and then Larry Peake.  In 1995, I began working for David Cohn as a personal injury paralegal and supervisor of his PI practice.  I also taught Personal Injury Law at CSUB – Attorney Assistant Program in the evenings for many years and wrote the text book for the class utilized by CSUB.

Education: Completion of the Attorney Assistant Program at California State University, Bakersfield.  Examination through the National Association of Legal Assistants for my certification as a California Advanced Specialist in Civil Litigation; Advanced Paralegal certifications in Trial Practices, Discovery, Wrongful Death, and Personal Injury.

Training: Under the supervision and training from the best attorneys.  Art Pearl and Larry Peake hammered in me civil procedure, while David Cohn and Matt Clark fine-tuned the art of personal injury and case management.

Comment: Education cannot replace experience.  Education is the stepping stone.  Experience is the mountain top.  All the education in the world cannot teach a paralegal how to navigate through the day-to-day encounters of an area of law.  Only experience gives you that.  That is why it is a combination of education and experience that makes for an outstanding paralegal.”

Donna Wilkins:

My background is not your typical educational background that you will find of most paralegals today.  There were no schools specializing in paralegal studies when I first started in the legal industry in 1979 when I was 19 years old; the only specialized education I could find to help assist me in advancement was a correspondence course, which I did take and complete.

My background is solely from experience. I started as a receptionist in 1979 for a small firm in San Francisco.  From the day I sat at the desk, I knew I had found my calling.  I did everything I could to learn as much as I could and kept asking questions and requesting more responsibility.  I absorbed everything I could and advanced to legal secretary in less than a year.  I moved firms about 3 times in 5 years in order to obtain knowledge in the areas of personal injury, construction defect, probate, family law and insurance defense.  Later in my career I worked in the areas of criminal law, corporate law, and civil and criminal appellate law.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and was very fortunate to find employment with attorneys and firms that encouraged my advancement and shared their knowledge with me – even allowing me to sit in on depositions, court hearings, oral argument in appellate court and civil trials.   Next year I will have 40 years in the legal field, over 25 of them as a paralegal and I have never looked back – only forward to the next challenge as a paralegal.”

 

What skills are necessary in order to be a quality paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

“At a minimum, all paralegals are required to be in compliance with Business and Professions Code Section 6450 – 6456.  In addition, it is very important for paralegals to possess excellent writing and research skills, understand the rules, procedures and mechanics that apply to their area of practice; stay up-to-date on the changing rules and procedures; possess exceptional technical skills; and possess excellent analytical and case management skills.  However, having all of these “skills” doesn’t make a great paralegal.  To be a great paralegal you must also possess the qualities of a great employee:  loyalty, work ethic, detail oriented, dedication to your craft, tenacity, and a thick skin.”

Donna Wilkins:

“In addition to skill, I believe it is absolutely imperative to have an affinity and love for what you do.  Knowledge and skills are one thing, but if you do not love what you do, you won’t be as successful as you could be.  The most important skill I believe is the ability to prioritize.  With all the work that lands on my desk, I must be able to determine what must be done now and what can wait.  A system of following up on projects is also imperative.  Organization is crucial, as you can’t get things done if you do not have a system in place to make sure that nothing is missed.  You must be able to communicate, both verbally and in writing, with the attorneys and staff, but also with clients and the courts.   Maintaining knowledge of current case law and statutes which pertain to your area of practice is also necessary.”

 

What do you do to assist the attorney you work for?

Barbara Hass:

“Development and case management from the date of intake to completion; legal research; discovery; trial preparation; Federal case management; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent analysis to the supervising attorney.”

Donna Wilkins:

“You cannot list in detail in a few short paragraphs all of the responsibilities of a paralegal.  However, I can provide the following brief description:  I manage the case files to make sure all necessary information is obtained from the clients, that the medical records and bills are obtained so that a case can move forward either to settlement or litigation.  I draft demand letters and follow-up on settlement demands and offers.

Once a case is ready to be filed with the Court, I prepare the complaint for the attorney’s review and filing with the court.  I maintain the docketing calendar so that all dates pertaining to litigation are calendared and reminders are up to date.  I prepare initial discovery and meet with clients to obtain information on discovery propounded to them, and then prepare the draft responses for the attorney’s review.  I perform the initial review of defendant’s responses to discovery and prepare a summary for the attorneys and suggest additional discovery to be propounded and which depositions should be set.  I prepare Case Management Statements for the attorney’s review and filing with the Court.  I contact expert witnesses and make sure they have the documents they need to provide their opinions.

Once a trial date is set, I manage all related dates and make sure that all pre-trial discovery is completed, depositions taken, etc.  I prepare a draft of the pre-trial documents, including expert designations, trial witness and exhibit lists, etc. I subpoena witnesses and arrange for expert testimony.  I then prepare the exhibits themselves for submission to the Court and opposing counsel to be used at trial.”

Paralegals do more than help lawyers to prepare their cases, conduct relevant research and draft legal documents for litigation; they help to manage the clients throughout a long and sometimes frustrating process and as such are an essential element of an attorney’s legal team. To all of you out there who currently employ paralegals/legal assistants, take a moment to applaud and recognize their efforts as your success depends on it.

 

If you would like to comment or respond to my message, please e-mail me at jyoro@chainlaw.com.

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If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact the experienced legal team at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.