Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney provides legal commentary following North High School sexual misconduct allegations

February 27, 2019 | 10:48 am


A local high school athletic equipment manager has been arrested on suspicion of having sexual contact with current and former students. And as yet another local school employee is arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a student, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney Matt Clark provided insight to media on the ongoing problem, and the effects on victims.

According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Edwin Rodriguez, 40, who worked at North High School in north Bakersfield, was arrested on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with minors 14 to 15 years old, exhibiting harmful matter to a minor, annoying a child under 18 and false imprisonment. He faces 11 felony counts and 13 misdemeanor counts.

For media coverage of this case with Clark’s legal commentary, see “Media Coverage” at the bottom of this post.

According to media reports, 10 people have come forward to investigators alleging inappropriate physical contact and other unwanted interaction. Rodriguez allegedly sent explicit messages, including photos and videos, to eight juvenile students through the social media platform Snapchat and that he had sexual contact with several of the victims dating back to 2015. One of the alleged student victims at North High estimated they had witnessed over 300 conversations with Rodriguez of a sexual nature involving students, both male and female, according to court documents.

The arrest of Rodriguez comes after several other sexual misconduct cases in recent months. In December, former Liberty High School boys basketball coach was charged on suspicion of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18. Also, a Kern County jury awarded $10 million to a girl who was allegedly molested by a computer lab technician for the Lamont Elementary School District. A lawsuit was recently filed against a former Highland High School assistant principal who allegedly sexually abused a 16-year-old male student in 2009. And a McFarland High School basketball coach was arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct in October after a male student came forward to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office; the coach had allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to the student, promising him a spot on the school varsity team in exchange for sexual favors.

Matt Clark, who has represented several victims of sexual abuse and misconduct, told local media he has seen these types of cases all too often.

“I don’t think people realize the damage they do to these young adolescents when an adult gets into a relationship with them. It haunts them years and years later,” Clark told The Bakersfield Californian. “Victims don’t necessarily want to come forward. I think they’re in a tough position.”

Social media and text messaging have played big roles both in allowing such relationships to start; they also help prove that misconduct has actually taken place.

“It gives the sexual predators the means to make contact and to groom their prey,” Clark said. “However, it’s also actual documentary evidence that a school employee sent inappropriate messages or material to a minor. Before we had that technology it was just verbalization, which was difficult to prove.”

Several times a year, Clark speaks at the Kern High School District “Coaches Clinic,” which trains school employees on various legal issues to watch out for.

“One of the rules that I give to the coaches during the training is do not text message a student one on one,” Clark said on KGET-17 News. “There should never be a situation where you are text messaging a student one on one.”

Clark said that while some predators believe deleting their correspondence with students will protect them from being caught, that is not the case.

“If you put something in a text message, it’s saved forever, even if you delete them,” Clark said. “If you’re having inappropriate contact with a student and you don’t know that, that’s really playing with fire.”

If you or someone you know is sexually abused by someone in authority, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case

Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline, or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. The sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.

See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations, and they often have someone on staff that can help with stress.

Contact at attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a sexual assault and abuse lawyer.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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

February 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


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.

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 helps local family affected by crash caused be alleged DUI driver

September 19, 2018 | 9:29 am


On Aug. 18, Bakersfield attorney Henry Noto allegedly got behind the wheel of his vehicle while under the influence, despite previously receiving two misdemeanors — in 2014 and 2016 — for DUI, according to news reports.

On this occasion, however, this decision caused severe injuries to several people when he failed to stop at a stop sign at on Highway 43 and struck another vehicle head on. He had a blood alcohol content of .16 percent at the time of the crash, according to CHP reports.

Noto, 62, was charged on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury in connection with the collision. According to news reports, Noto faces a felony with years of prison time.

Recently, The Bakersfield Californian spoke with Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark regarding the DUI crash that injured 26-year-old David Perez, who suffered substantial physical injuries, including a brain injury, when Noto crashed into his vehicle. Clark is assisting the Perez family in the civil case with charge, or pro bono.

The crash and case comes before the fifth Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash on Sept. 29, in which Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the presenting sponsor. The event aims to raise awareness of the DUI problem in Kern County, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

You can read more about Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ involvement in the civil case against Noto below. You can also listen to an interview with Clark on the Richard Beene Show by clicking here.

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By Jason Kotowski

A Bakersfield DUI attorney waived his preliminary hearing Monday and will stand trial in connection with an alleged drunken driving crash last month that injured four.

Also, new details have been released regarding the injuries suffered by one of the victims, a correctional officer whose vehicle was struck by attorney Henry Noto.

David Perez, 26, suffered “substantial” physical injuries including a brain injury, attorney Matthew C. Clark of civil law firm Chain Cohn Stiles said Monday.

“It’s going to be a long road for this young man,” he said.

The correctional officer is undergoing therapy at a local rehabilitation center. He can talk and carry on conversations, but Clark said it’s been his experience from representing others with head trauma that it takes time before the full extent of the injuries is known.

Perez had about 30 staples in his head after the crash, he said.

The firm is representing Perez pro bono and expects to soon file a lawsuit against Noto, Clark said. It’s likely they’ll be limited in what they can do for Perez, he said, because whatever money Noto has won’t be enough to pay for the officer’s treatment.

Noto, 62, failed to stop at a stop sign while exiting Interstate 5 at Highway 43 on Aug. 18, according to the California Highway Patrol. He hit Perez’s vehicle and pushed it into opposing lanes, where a third vehicle struck it.

The attorney and a female passenger, Heather Rush, 31, were also injured and taken to a local hospital. The driver of the third vehicle, 32-year-old Lucus Cotter, suffered moderate injuries but declined treatment, according to the CHP.

Noto’s blood-alcohol content was 0.16 percent, twice the legal driving limit, officers said. He’s charged with two felony DUI charges.

Court records show Noto has two prior DUI convictions, both for misdemeanors.

“It’s the same story over and over again,” Clark said. “A guy with multiple DUIs gets into another DUI accident and causes substantial life-changing injuries. It’s getting to be an old story.”

It’s especially troubling, Clark said, because Noto specializes in DUI cases.

“He practices an area of law where he’s fully aware of the risks of driving while intoxicated,” the attorney said. “And he did. He did it multiple times.

“There’s just no excuse for it.”

Noto’s next court hearing is Sept. 27. He remains in custody.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash caused by a DUI driver, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

New Chain | Cohn | Stiles ‘Audio Center’ features interviews with Kern County’s leading radio personalities

August 1, 2018 | 10:53 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has unveiled a new “Audio Center” web page aimed to keep listeners in the loop on the latest news in personal injury and workers’ compensation law.

The new web page contains interviews with Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ own attorneys sitting in with some of Bakersfield’s and Kern County’s leading radio personalities. Among the interviews are as follows:

  • Personal injury attorney Matt Clark joined The Richard Beene Show  to discuss a local elder abuse and wrongful death case, our growing aging population’s risk of suffering from neglect and abuse, and what you can do to protect your loved ones. The segment focuses on an elder abuse and neglect lawsuit filed 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. IN another show,  Clark was a special guest on The Moneywise Guys radio show to discuss how to prevent and recognize elder abuse.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn joins the Richard Beene Show to discuss legal issues surrounding the sudden death of local attorney Benjamin Greene, who died after collapsing during a 5K run. They explore two areas in investigating the question of civil liability: the waiver ostensibly signed by each 5K participant, and a legal doctrine known as “assumption of risk.”
  • Workers’ compensation associate attorney Beatriz Trejo joined “El Show De Cascabel,” a Spanish language show on La Caliente 96.9, and answered questions from listeners, how to handle employers who threaten to fire employees who report issues they may be having at work, how to properly handle paperwork related to work injuries, and much more. In another show, Trejo joined “El Gallito” on 1010 AM and 92.1 FM to answer listeners legal questions and provide insight on legal issues of the day.
  • Workers’ compensation attorney and senior partner Jim Yoro discusses various work injury issues with DJ Sheri Ortiz on The Groove radio station. They focus on valley fever, and how you could be entitled to benefits under the workers’ compensation system if you get ill on the job, and the illness is as a result of the job.
  • Lawyer Matt Clark appeared on KERN Radio to discuss controversial comments made by Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, wrongful death lawsuits, and excessive force cases. A video showed Sheriff Youngblood telling an employees union that it is better “financially” to kill suspects than to “cripple” them has sparked controversy locally and nationwide.

Visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles “Audio Center” by clicking here to listen to and download the latest interviews and radio segments with Kern County’s personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys.

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If you or someone you know is involved in an accident at the fault of someone else, or is injured at work no matter who is at fault, contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to chat with an operator.

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

Elder Abuse Awareness: Coming together to stop violence towards our most vulnerable citizens

June 13, 2018 | 3:36 pm


California sees 176,000 cases of reported elder abuse cases each year, with more than 4,000 reported in 2017, according to Kern County Aging & Adult Services.

What’s worse is officials estimate that for every case known to reporting agencies, 24 cases go unreported.

This month — during Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Kern County, with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day falling this year on Friday, June 15 — Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who cannot, our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. Our law firm has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and throughout the state.

“We want everyone to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We all need to come together to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder-friendly policies.”

In a recent Eyewitness News story focused on the rise of elder abuse in Kern County, Clark provided information on elder abuse and neglect civil cases, and what people can do to make sure their loved ones are not victims. Watch the news story by clicking here.

Clark also was a special guest on The Moneywise Guys radio show to discuss “How to prevent + recognize elder abuse, not just financial abuse. You can listen to the show by clicking here.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation on June 5 proclaiming the Month of June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month and Aging & Adult Services in collaboration with the Commission on Aging, Kern County District Attorney’s Office and Behavioral Health and Recovery Services hosting the 21st Annual Elder Abuse Prevention Conference on June 14.

According to the Archives of General Psychiatry, by the age of 75 half of all Americans will have experienced a diagnosable mental disorder and yet, less than one-third receive appropriate care. Why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

To report cases of abuse locally, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services or the Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

  • Adult Protective Services responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult.
    • 24-Hour Hotline: 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care.
    • Phone: 661-323-7884

And if you or someone you know experiences elder abuse or neglect, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s specialized website focused on elder abuse at bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

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LEARN MORE

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

Frequently Asked Question: How do I know if I have a case?

November 1, 2017 | 10:02 am


How do you know if you have a case? How does Chain | Cohn | Stiles compare to other law firms? And how long will your case take?

These are just some of the questions frequently asked by Kern County residents 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.

Below, Clark answers the question, “How do you know if you have a case?” In short, Chain | Cohn | Stiles looks at four things when evaluating whether or not someone has a personal injury case: liability, causation, damages, and collectability.

Learn about all of these points by watching the video on chainlaw.com, or read all about it below.

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In the event of an injury or accident, for us to determine if you have a case, we need to know four things:

1) Liability. Is someone else at fault? If it’s a car accident, was there another driver at fault? If it’s an injury or accident on a property, did the owner fail in some way. If it’s an industrial, oilfield or work accident, did someone do something wrong. We call this liability.

2) Damages. Were you hurt? And if you were, how badly? Did you suffer from those injuries? We call these damages, and they include medical expenses that you incurred already, and are likely to incur in the future. Did you have loss of earnings? Did you miss work? You’re entitled to recover past and future losses. Did you have pain and suffering? We call these non-economic damages.

3) Causation. What we’re looking for is if you’re in an accident, and you have physical impairments, were those injuries suffered in the accident? Was the accident the cause of those injuries? Maybe you’ve had back injuries before, or even had a previous surgery. If those previous injuries are made worse because of an accident, that’s also causation.

4) Collectability. Can we get you any money for your damages? Typically, this comes from insurance or a corporate entity. There are times when we people see us in very bad accidents with unfortunate injuries, but because the person who is the cause of their injuries has no or little insurance, that person is what we call insolvent, and they can’t pay a claim. There is typically nothing we can do.

An injury and accident case can be a complication thing, and it’s important for a legal professional who has expertise to evaluate your potential case. That’s what we can do for you, for free. We can determine if you have a case. Call us or visit chainlaw.com today for a free consultation.

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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.

Property maintenance is key to avoid injuries, premises liability claims

October 11, 2017 | 9:31 am


Premises-Hazard-Blog

The following article by Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark appeared in the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here

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Maintaining your property so that it is safe for your customers, employees and visitors should be a top priority for all businesses. Premises liability lawsuits are one the most common claims made against businesses.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we regularly receive calls from Kern County residents injured due to poorly maintained property. Oftentimes, these injuries lead to cases, and these cases end up in litigation, costing businesses time and money. In almost every instance, the injury, and subsequent lawsuit, could have been avoided with proper maintenance and inspection, and a basic understanding of premises liability law.

Premises liability claims typically fall into one of two major categories: standard premises liability, or premises liability against a public entity, oftentimes referred to as a “dangerous condition of public property.” In this article, we will focus on the former, which applies to all private businesses and an injury claim made by a non-employee. Also, it is important to note that an injury claimed by an employee normally falls into the worker’s compensation system, which is a “no fault” system, meaning the law relating to liability is largely inapplicable.

Premises liability claims

If someone claims to be injured on your property, he or she needs to prove four things to win their case:

  1. That you owned, leased and/or controlled the property;
  2. That you were negligent in the use or maintenance of your property;
  3. That they suffered an injury; and,
  4. That your negligence was a substantial factor in causing their injury.

Property owners are expected to use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions, and to repair or give warning of any condition that could be reasonably expected to harm others. If an injured party can ultimately prove that a dangerous condition existed on the property, that the owner knew or should have known the condition was present on the property, and that the owner failed to correct the condition, or give adequate warning, the injured party will likely prevail.

But how does it work in a practical sense?  If, for example, you fail to maintain your parking lot to the extent that it is full of potholes, uneven surfaces, or broken and cracked asphalt and someone falls, you may be liable for their injuries. If a customer spilled something inside your store and you have no protocol or procedure in place to regularly inspect the condition of the floor, and then hours later another customer slips and falls, you could be liable. If your business operates at night, and you have an area outside that is so poorly lit that things like curbs, parking bumpers, or medians are invisible and someone falls, you could be liable.

What you can do

As a best practice, your business should regularly inspect your property and keep a record of the inspections (think of inspection records inside most public restrooms, for example). If during an inspection, you come across a condition or defect that poses a danger to others, you should immediately cordon off the area, put up warnings if necessary – such as wet floor signs or warning tape – and then correct the defect as quickly possible.

Under most circumstances, businesses make timely repairs to defects they are aware of. The failure occurs when there is not a regular inspection policy in place, and defects go unnoticed.

So, if you take one bit of advice away from this brief article it should be: put a policy in place to regularly inspect your businesses’ property, do the inspections, and keep a record that you did it.

Matthew Clark is a senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles where he focuses on wrongful death, industrial accidents, and motor vehicle accident cases, among other injury cases for people of Kern County.

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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.