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:
  • More is still to come! Stay tuned for more 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.

‘Kern Under the Influence’: Series highlights local DUI epidemic

February 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


UPDATE: Eyewitness News recently presented a special half-hour program focused on the series highlighted below titled “Under the Influence & On the Road,” sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. To watch the entire program, click here

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You are more likely to die of a DUI related crime in Kern County than any other county in the state of California.

It’s with that startling fact that Eyewitness News (KBAK-KBFX) recently presented a five-part, in-depth investigation into Kern County’s DUI epidemic titled “Kern Under the Influence.” The series, by reporter Jeff Platt, highlights how deadly Kern County’s roads truly are, how difficult it is to keep repeat DUI drivers off our roadways, how officers try to keep our streets safe, how crash victims are affected, and how we can prevent future DUI crimes.

The series also features Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matt Clark, who shares his experience in representing DUI crash victims, and the suffering that they incur. Clark is a board member on MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board, and his law firm serves annually as the presenting sponsor for the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, which raises funds to help innocent victims of DUI crashes, helps raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund MADD Kern County programs.

Clark also serves as a speaker for the MADD Victim Impact Panel, a program that has victims and other DUI crime experts speak to first-time DUI offenders in an effort to prevent future and repeat DUI offenders. Clark also took part in a special Eyewitness News Victim Impact Panel segment that followed the five-part series.

To view each of the five parts in the Eyewitness News series and the special Victim Impact Panel segment, scroll down to “Media Coverage” section at the bottom of this post. Here is a breakdown of each of the parts:

 

Part I: Drunk Drivers in Kern County

Every day, drivers in Kern County are sharing the roads with drunk drivers. In fact, local officers arrested nearly 4,300 DUI drivers last year. And that’s just “a drop in the bucket” in terms of how many DUI drivers are actually driving on local streets, local officials say.

According to Eyewitness News, there are 15 DUI drivers on the road at any given moment, with a peak between midnight and 3 a.m., where are nearly 80 DUI drivers in Kern County. And each one of them is a tragedy waiting to happen.

 

Part II: Repeat offenders hardly punished

One of biggest problems involving DUI drivers is that state laws force our county to let them drive drunk over and over again.

In California, drunk drivers get a second chance, a third chance, and in many cases a fourth chance after they are caught before getting any real jail time. As Eyewitness News shows, in between those chances, they’re driving on Kern County’s roadways, and sometimes they claim lives.

Victims are left with little trust in the system, but want lawmakers to address and fix this problem.

 

Part III: Busting drunk drivers

For police, catching DUI drivers sometimes is like finding a needle in a haystack, and other times it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The worry always is how many they are not able to catch.

The fact is, drunk drivers outnumber the police and officers can’t be everywhere at once. But local police use such strategies as check points, saturation patrols, and having every officer DUI-trained to catch DUI drivers. They also hope other motorists look out for DUI drivers and report them to police to keep other drivers safe. A 9-1-1 call with a location and partial plate could be the difference between a fatal crash, or a driver under the influence ending up behind bars.

After all, DUI is a community issue, which will take a community effort to stop it.

 

Part VI: The insurance myth

There is a myth that many victims of DUI crashes get rich in court. In fact, the opposite is true.

A combination of old insurance laws, minimal enforcement of those laws, and rising costs of medical care has created a new normal where DUI crash victims who live end up smothered in debt. In cases of death, victims’ families are sometimes left with nothing.

“Defendants in drunk driving cases often times have no insurance or far too little insurance to cover an injury or God forbid a death,” attorney Matt Clark explained.

Two major issues are at play. One, insurance companies and the DMV don’t communicate, making it too easy to drive without insurance. The second issue is the minimum coverage rates in California barely cover an ambulance ride to the hospital.

Clark suggests increasing your uninsured/under-insured-driver coverage on your policy.

 

Part V: Your choice

Many of the solutions to end DUI driving would take huge government action, including stiffer penalties. But one solution is in our hands: every single one of us deciding to make the right choice and help others make the right choice, too. Impaired driving, after all, is 100-percent preventable.

 

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MEDIA COVERAGE: KERN COUNTY UNDER THE INFLUENCE

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a DUI driver, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

New Chain | Cohn | Stiles video highlights ‘the team of lawyers you need when it matters most’

January 16, 2019 | 6:00 am


“You probably don’t need a full team of professionals all of the time, but if you get injured in an accident, you do. Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the team of lawyers you need when it matters most.”

That’s the message from the latest videos unveiled by the Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, highlighting the team of attorneys helping injury clients through each and every case. The videos are airing now throughout Kern County, and can be found at Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ YouTube channel.

“We want people to know that when they choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles in their time of need, they’re not just getting one attorney working on their case,” said David Cohn, managing partner of the law firm. “You’re getting a team of lawyers, paralegals, assistants, and others who are committed to helping you resolve your case, and ultimately help you move forward with your life.”

The video features a woman driving her vehicle into a gas station only to be bombarded with service by a pit crew donning Chain | Cohn | Stiles uniforms. She is pleasantly surprised as the pit crew gives her the full-service treatment in record speed before being hailed away. While it’s nice to be helped by a team of professionals at the gas station, the message is that it is necessary to have a team of professionals when it matters most — during an accident or injury case.

The latest video follows several other breakthrough videos showcased by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, including the following (click each title to view):

  • “Meet the Attorneys”: These 90-second interview videos are aimed to give viewers a better idea of who their hometown attorneys are, why they became lawyers, and how they could help viewers in the chance they ever needed to contact the firm. The videos were second-place winners in the 2015 “Your Honor Awards,” presented by the Legal Marketing Association – which included 170 entries in 16 categories from law firms throughout the world this year – and also won first place in the advertising category in the regional California “Your Honor Awards.”
  • “On Your Mind”: These videos conveyed the message for injured clients, “You may have a lot on your mind, but we’ll only have one thing on ours — you.” That is, we hope you are never in need of an accident or injury attorney, but in the unfortunate event that you do, we can guarantee that you and your family will be our No. 1 priority. Each video features an attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles who has experience and expertise in handling cases similar to those victims highlighted in the videos: auto accident, oilfield accident, agriculture accident, elder abuse, and work injury.
  • “Move Forward”: Featuring a rewind, fast-forward theme, the video states, “We may not be able to press rewind on your accident, but our lawyers can help you move forward.”

All of the videos above were produced in partnership with Bakersfield-based Scope Studios.

In addition, last year Chain | Cohn | Stiles partnered on a video with Inclusion Films, a practical film workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. The vocational program produced a powerful dramatized 30-second video featuring attorneys at the law firm, and the work they do to help people who have been involved in life-changing accidents with the message of, “We are more than a law firm. We are family.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes pride in presenting honest video commercials to the public that highlight the hard work we do, and care we take in each client’s case.

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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.

Bike Bakersfield, Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides free helmets, bicycle lights, safety lessons through 2018 ‘Project Light up the Night’

November 7, 2018 | 8:26 am


With Daylight Saving Time in full swing, it’s more important than ever for drivers to be careful while commuting to and from work in the dark, and for pedestrians and bicyclists to make sure they are visible.

In fact, thousands of children in Kern County will walk, bike, wait at the bus stop, and even drive to school in the extended dark periods. Others may exercise, walk their pets, or drive about in the evening hours. Safety advocates argue that Daylight Saving Time increases pedestrian and bicycle injuries, car accidents, and deaths.

Enter Project Light up the Night. The annual program hosted by the local bicycle advocacy nonprofit aims to make Kern County’s roads a little safer for drivers and cyclists by giving out free bicycle lights, helmets, and safety lessons at various locations throughout Bakersfield and Kern County.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support Project Light up the Night each year by providing the helmets and lights, and are joined by Kern Family Health Care as a sponsor of the program.

“We all need to understand the added dangers that come with the commuting in the dark,” said David Cohn, managing partner with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Drivers need to be extra careful to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists, and they need to make sure they’re seen by motorists.”

Bike Bakersfield representatives will be handing out the free helmets and lights on select Thursdays throughout Kern County. Bicyclists must have their bicycle on hand to receive a safety light and helmet. The 2018 dates this year are as follows:

  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, at Bike Bakersfield (1708 Chester Ave.)
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, at Standard Park (301 E. Minner Ave.)
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov, 15, at Greenfield Resource Center (5400 Monitor St.) and Bike Arvin (1241 Bear Mountain Ave.)
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 23, in location to be determined.
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, in location to be determined.

Exact locations are to be determined. Stay tuned to the Bike Bakersfield Facebook page or Twitter page for details.

California law states that any cyclist riding at night needs to have a white headlamp, a red rear reflector, white or yellow reflectors on the pedals, and white or yellow reflectors on each side. The safety equipment is vital, especially in Bakersfield and Kern County, which has seen a rash of bicycle-related accidents in recent years.

In fact, earlier this year, the City of Bakersfield announced a “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan,” a partnership with California Department of Transportation to examine the city’s roadways and determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. The goal was to recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

For years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has advocated and fought to raise awareness of bicycle, pedestrian and driver safety throughout the streets Bakersfield and Kern County.

AAA offers several tips for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians traveling at night. Here are just a few of them:

DRIVERS

  • Slow down.
  • Keep vehicle headlights and windows clean.
  • Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
  • Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.

PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS

  • Cross only at intersections. Look left, right and left again and only cross when it is clear. Do not jaywalk.
  • Cross at the corner, and not in the middle of the street or between parked cars.
  • Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
  • Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you go out into the street.
  • Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking or biking near traffic at night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
  • Avoid listening to music or make sure it is at a low volume so you can hear danger approaching.
  • Bicycle lights are a must-have item for safe night riding.

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If you or someone you know is involved in a bicycle accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

FAQ: How does Chain | Cohn | Stiles stand out compared to other law firms?

October 17, 2018 | 9:20 am


When it comes to choosing an attorney to help you during what may be one of the most difficult times of your life, you want to make sure it’s a lawyer that is knowledgeable and professional, caring and compassionate, and ultimately a winner.

The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are proud to check off all of these boxes. In fact, we know the people of Kern County have many choices when it comes to hiring an accident and injury attorney. We want to make sure we stand out compared to other law firms, and the way we do this is by providing superior service.

You may have a lot of questions when it comes to hiring a personal injury or workers’ compensation lawyer or law firm. To help answer these questions, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of attorney and senior partner Matt Clark, put together several short videos on the topics.

In this blog article, Clark answers the question, “How does Chain | Cohn | Stiles stand out compared to other law firms?” Watch the video here, or read Clark’s answer below.

If you have other questions related to a personal injury, accident or workers’ compensation legal issue, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ Frequently Asked Questions page. Learn more by watching the video on chainlaw.com, or read more below.

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How does Chain | Cohn | Stiles stand out compared to other law firms?

Here are Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we not only believe it’s our obligation and duty to provide our clients with the best representation, but we also believe it’s our duty to provide them with the best customer service as well. I hear all too often of stories from injured people who can never get a hold of their lawyer, never see them, and have no idea what’s going with their case. They begin to lose trust in the system. These are things we want to avoid, while ensuring you’re represented by the best legal team available. We want you to understand what is happening in your case. For these reasons, your lawyer is always available to meet with you or speak with you on the phone or meet with you; or, for a lot of clients, email and text message you.

We tell all clients that it’s important to understand all the issues in their cases, good and bad. A decision will come to either settle your case or go to trial. In order to make an educated decision, you need to understand what is happening, what could happen, and what all of the legal issues are. We feel if we could explain all of this to our clients, we have done a best job possible. We’ve been around nearly 85 years, and one reason is we have been around so long is that we provide superior customer service.

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RELATED VIDEOS

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If you or someone you know has a potential personal injury or workers’ compensation case, contact the lawyers for a free consultation at (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.

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

July 18, 2018 | 6:00 am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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.

FAQ: Why choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles over other in-town, or out-of-town attorneys?

March 21, 2018 | 10:03 am


Like many big decisions, choosing a lawyer to help you with your accident, injury or workers’ compensation case can be a difficult one. For one, there are many to choose from — not only locally but throughout the state.

Sometimes, there are misconceptions and myths associated with which lawyers are the best, and the reasons why. One myth includes out-of-town lawyers being better than local attorneys.

To discuss this issue, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark has recorded a short video focusing on this myth and answering the question, “Why choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles over other in-town, or out-of-town attorneys?”

You can learn more about this topic below. And if you have other questions related to a personal injury, accident or workers’ compensation legal issues, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ Frequently Asked Questions page.

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We hear many times from clients who have hired lawyers who they believed were based locally, but were not. Later, they contact our office because they never got to talk to that lawyer, never met them, or were dragging the case along, and they want to hire us to take over their case. Many instances we’ll get involved and end up fixing and resolving their case. But there are other instances where the out-of-town lawyer has done things incorrectly on the case, made the case more difficult, or made mistakes where we cannot get involved because those mistakes cannot be corrected.

There is this misconception that if you have a case in Bakersfield, you need an out-of-town lawyer because:

1) Lawyers are in the pockets of in-town legal officials and will not fairly represent you and your case, or;

2) Out-of-town lawyers are better because they are in a bigger city and are better equipment to handle the case.

It’s important for you to know neither is true. Our firm has handled many cases against local agencies and entities time and time again, including police departments and corporations. Because we are here in Kern County, and have been for nearly 85 years, we actually have the upper hand over out-of-town law firms because we are familiar with the people involved in our local systems. We’ve had cases against them before, tried cases against them, taken depositions with them before, and that gives us an advantage.

The other thing we hear is that someone goes out and hires a lawyer, and they never get to hear from them. In our opinion, that’s a terrible way to practice law, which is why we make it a point at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to have our lawyers meet with, and speak to, our clients in person. In fact, on the first occasion you meet with us, you will be meeting with your lawyer. If later you have questions of concerns, or want updates on your case, you get to speak with your lawyer. We’ll be by your side every step of the way.

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If you or someone you know has a potential personal injury or workers’ compensation case, contact the lawyers for a free consultation at (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.

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