Families of crime victims aim to ‘restore the balance of justice’

April 11, 2014 | 9:35 am


Some were killed by drunk drivers, and others at the hands of other human beings. But all of them are victims of crimes, and their families are fighting for justice.

About 400 people gathered this week outside of Kern County Superior Court to honor loved ones who had been killed, and in some cases pray for justice to be served. They waved signs and marched through downtown Bakersfield streets as part of the second annual Victims’ Rights March, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is held each year in April. This year’s theme is “Restoring the Balance of Justice.” They also celebrated the Victims of Crime Act, which recognizes the rights of victims.

Some of the participants are being represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and others are partners of the firm who are striving for the same goal — justice.

Among them was the family was David Silva, who was beaten to death by several law enforcement officers. CCS has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Silva’s family.

Another participant was Carla Pearson, program coordinator and victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. Since her stepson was killed by a repeat DUI offender in 2002, she has been campaigning for victim’s rights in and out of the courtroom, and to take DUI offenders off of the streets.

Pearson has partnered with our law firm, local law enforcement, Kern County District Attorney’s Office, and other community groups in the first-ever “Walk/Run Like MADD” 5K, to be held on Sept. 20 at Park at River Walk. The event aims to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving accidents.

Others at the march, too, had family members killed in auto accidents, including a mother of a 20-year-old who held a sign against texting and driving, The Bakersfield Californian reported. The mother believed texting was a factor in the crash that killed her daughter.

Another mother held a photo of her son, who died in a hit-and-run accident last year, The Californian reported.

“I think (the victims’ march) is important for us to support each other in this,” the mother told The Californian. “We have not forgotten our loved ones.”

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week ends this week, but at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe it’s important to keep crime victims’ rights in mind always.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles: Where real people go for justice

March 28, 2014 | 4:02 pm


At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we know our clients are No. 1.

So, in the newest issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine, out Saturday in The Bakersfield Californian and online now, we wanted to highlight the experiences of our former clients at our law firm. See our ad HERE, and also on our Instagram.

We chose three real-life clients to feature in the ad. Here is what they had to say:

Michael C., who suffered a leg amputation following a motorcycle accident:

“I didn’t know what had happened after the accident, and I didn’t know anything about the legal system. But after the first meeting with David Cohn, I knew he was on my side and I was going to be OK. I had no problem worrying about the firm taking care of business. He was a big help. Now, I have no worries and no regrets.”

Marilyn B., who was injured after a driver ran a stop sign and broadsided her vehicle:

“They are the best lawyers in town. They came to see me in the hospital after my accident, and I was so nervous. But they reassured me everything was going to be OK, and I didn’t have to worry about anything. I trusted them. Overall, I was satisfied with the way everything went. They did so much for me and gave me confidence.”

Jonathon A., who suffered serious burn injuries when a steam line blew out:

“The lawyers and staff at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are some of the most heartfelt, trustworthy and caring people I have ever worked with. They made sure that my whole family and I were treated like family, and we never had our questions go unanswered. I thank you all for everything you have done for my family and I. You guys and girls truly changed my life. I am forever grateful!”

For more real-life client testimonials, go HERE.

Witnesses in CCS wrongful death case file lawsuit for cell phone seizure

March 26, 2014 | 11:12 am


Another lawsuit has been filed related to our wrongful death case against local law enforcement.

Five witnesses to the May 2013 confrontation between law enforcement and David Silva have filed a lawsuit in federal court, according to The Bakersfield Californian, alleging they were unlawfully detained and law enforcement improperly seized their cell phones they used to record the in-custody death.

After the witnesses recorded the incident, Kern County Sheriff’s investigators “continued to harass, threaten, intimidate, pressure” the witnesses until they received the cellphones used to take video, they allege.

Seven deputies and two California Highway Patrol officers confronted Silva outside of Kern Medical Center. Deputies used baton strikes on Silva, restrained him, and a police canine was also used and bit Silva several times

After Silva was custody, he experienced trouble breathing and died soon after. The beating to Silva, according to CCS complaint, ultimately resulted in his death.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of David Silva. And CCS Managing Partner David K. Cohn has spoken out against the officers’ alleged actions, too.

The case drew widespread media attention and concern throughout Kern County, the state and across the country. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times were among dozens of media outlets that covered the case.

Kern Sheriff Donny Youngblood asked the FBI to conduct a parallel investigation into the case after the incident. And the case in ongoing.

What’s new at CCS?

March 24, 2014 | 10:45 am


What is there to celebrate at Chain | Cohn | Stiles? A whole lot.

Let’s start first with our 80-year anniversary! Then we can celebrate our new website redesign, our partnership with the city to keep our local roads clean, and recent media coverage of our case settlements.

This morning we sent out the latest in what will be a quarterly newsletter, focusing on all the news and happenings at your law firm, in and around Bakersfield.

To read the latest newsletter, go HERE.

And don’t miss the next newsletter. Scroll to the bottom of this page, and put in your email address to sign up! Or simply click HERE.

We thank each of you for your support.

Like the late Dr. Grossman, CCS devoted to providing care for burn victims

March 19, 2014 | 9:44 am


In 2009, San Joaquin Community Hospital established the Grossman Burn Center. Before then, Bakersfield and Kern County residents in need of specialized burn care had to travel more than 100 miles to Fresno or Los Angeles for treatment.

Since opening in Bakersfield, the Grossman Burn Center has averaged about 350 patients annually, according to The Bakersfield Californian.

Dr. A. Richard Grossman, for whom the center is named after, died recently at 81. The plastic and reconstructive surgeon pioneered care for burn patients in Sherman Oaks four decades ago. In the decades that followed, Grossman Burn Centers were established in Phoenix, Kansas City and, of course, in Bakersfield.

Like Grossman, the attorneys and staff at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for decades, too, have been devoted to providing proper care for burn victims in representing them. For this reason, Chain | Cohn | Stiles in 2009 donated $200,000 to San Joaquin Community Hospital’s Grossman Burn Center ICU. Today, it is known as the “Chain | Cohn | Stiles ICU, Grossman Burn Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital.”

“We’ve seen firsthand in our work representing burn victims how the Grossman Burn Center at SJCH provides world-class care,” CCS managing partner David K. Cohn said in 2012 during a ceremony acknowledging the donation. “It was important to us as a law firm and as part of this community to be part of bringing state-of-the-art burn care to Kern County. In addition, the Grossman Burn Center’s assistance to the families of children without sufficient financial resources to battle serious burn injuries is something we are very proud to support.”

Today, we honor Dr. Grossman for his work that still resonates.

To learn more about the local Grossman Burn Center and its services, visit www.sjch.us/burncenter. And to learn more about how Chain | Cohn | Stiles serves burn victims, go HERE.

CCS, MADD Kern County partner to help keep streets safe

March 17, 2014 | 10:13 am


St. Patrick’s Day is the second most dangerous time of the year for drunk driving fatalities, just behind New Year’s Day. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 79 people in the United States were killed in drunk driving crashes on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. This represents 48 percent of all highway fatalities for that time period, the second highest percentage of the year.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we’re committed to helping keep our streets safe. This year, the lawyers and staff at the law firm are taking part and helping organize the first ever “Walk Like MADD” in Bakersfield. We’ve partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County and various local law enforcement agencies to bring awareness locally to the dangers of drinking and driving, and raise funds to help local victims of drunk driving.

MADD Kern County leader and CCS friend Carla Pearson recently spoke with KGET-17 about the dangers and effect of drinking and driving locally. Today, the news station featured Pearson, discussed recent DUI tragedies, and highlighted how law enforcement agencies are tackling the issue today on St. Patrick’s Day. Watch the news clip by clicking HERE.

To learn what you can do if you’re ever the victim of a drunk driving accident, go HERE.

 

Media covers record-breaking Chain | Cohn | Stiles settlement

March 5, 2014 | 4:30 pm


Late last week, Chain | Cohn | Stiles announced a wrongful death settlement between the County of Kern and the families of two people killed by a speeding Kern County Sheriff’s deputy.

That $8.8 million settlement is believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. But the toughest part of a wrongful death case like this, Chain | Cohn | Stiles Managing Partner David K. Cohn says, is placing the value on a human life.

Cohn discussed the case and settlement with The Bakersfield Californian’s CEO Richard Been on “First Look with Scott Cox” live news show. (Watch the video of the show above)

Cohn represented Daniel Hiler’s fiancee and two young sons. The 24-year-old was struck and killed along with Chrystal Jolley, 30, in late 2011 by Kern County Sherriff’s Deputy John Swearengin.

Both were crossing a road in Oildale when Swearengin’s patrol vehicle struck and killed them. Swearengin was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting Hiler and Jolley. He was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and siren were not turned on.

Law enforcement officers can travel in excess of the posted speed limit so long as their forward facing overhead lights are activated to warn others that they are responding to an emergency, but Swearengin didn’t do that, Cohn said. In fact, the deputy violated several policies and procedures.

The Hiler family will receive $4.8 million from the settlement.

“You try to convey that loss of love, society, comfort and protection they (Hiler’s kids) will not have,” Cohn said Tuesday on the show. “And that’s when you ask the jury to consider and put a number on that loss.”

Cohn’s appearance on the live streamed-radio news show was the latest press on the case. Following Friday’s announcement, media from throughout Bakersfield, Kern County, the state and even Associated Press mentioned the civil case’s culmination. The criminal case is ongoing.

Local media coverage included (click the links for news coverage on the case):

The Bakersfield Californian

KGET-17 (NBC)

KBAK 29, KBFX 58 (Fox, BakersfieldNow.com)

KERO-23 (ABC)

And several other news outlets ran the Associated Press story on the Chain | Cohn | Stiles settlement, such as this one here.

While the civil case is settled, the criminal case against Swearengin continues. He is charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and he has plead not guilty.

Cohn also discussed other Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases involving Sheriff’s deputies, including a claim brought by a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a deputy at her home in Tehachapi. The Sheriff’s deputy involved in the sexual assault is currently being prosecuted by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. For more current cases involving Chain | Cohn | Stiles, go to Chainlaw.com.

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UPDATE: Below is media coverage regarding the criminal case against the Kern County Sheriff’s deputy involved in the crash. Local and national media covered the case: