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):
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.
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:
- Plea bargain ends case against deputy in double-fatal traffic case (KGET-17, NBC)
- Deputy who struck and killed two pedestrians takes plea deal (The Bakersfield Californian)
- Kern deputy who killed pedestrians in crash takes plea (KBAK-29 CBS, KBFX-58 FOX)
- Sheriff’s deputy takes plea deal in crash that killed 2 (KERO-23, ABC)
- Kern County Deputy Pleads In Crash That Killed 2 (CBS Los Angeles)
- At sentencing, deputy apologizes for crash that killed two pedestrians (The Bakersfield Californian)