Bakersfield crashes involving law enforcement vehicles share similar stories

May 4, 2015 | 10:31 am


Late last week, a family of four was driving in southwest Bakersfield when a Bakersfield Police officer driving his cruiser at freeway speeds crashed into them head-on, family members told Eyewitness News.

The officer, they said, did not have his lights or sirens on. The officer suffered minor to moderate injuries while the family members also were injured, and some were taken to the hospital. Fortunately, no one died in the crash.

Family members told Eyewitness News they were trying to turn left onto Wilson Road, yielding to oncoming traffic, when the patrol car swerved into them. Bakersfield Police Department said it’s continuing its investigation.

The case is eerily familiar to two recent cases handled by the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles in which law enforcement officers driving at unsafe speeds have crashed with local residents. Unfortunately in those cases, fatalities occurred.

  • Last year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled a wrongful death lawsuit 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. Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David 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 sirens 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 received $4.8 million from the settlement.
  • And in September last year, 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett was driving her vehicle at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale when she was struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle. She had just returned to Bakersfield from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends. The California Highway Patrol’s MAIT Team is still conducting an investigation of the collision.

“Under nearly every circumstance, law enforcement officers driving department vehicles are bound to the same rules of the road as everyday citizens unless they’re operating with lights or sirens when it’s necessary,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “That certainly doesn’t appear to be what happened in this recent case.”

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident at the fault of someone else, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Kern County votes Chain | Cohn | Stiles as ‘Best Law Firm’ for 2015 for third straight year; David Cohn as ‘Best Lawyer’

April 27, 2015 | 9:37 am


For the third year straight, the people of Bakersfield and Kern County voted Chain | Cohn | Stiles as the “Best Law Firm” through The Bakersfield Californian Readers’ Choice Poll for 2015.

Additionally, managing partner David K. Cohn was voted the 2015 “Best Lawyer” for the second year. He was voted “Best Lawyer” in Bakersfield in 2013 — the first year this category was introduced to the poll — and as a “Favorite” in the “Best Lawyer” category in 2014.

More than 20 years ago, The Bakersfield Californian unveiled a contest where readers would select the best that Bakersfield had to offer. They nominated, voted, and chose the best restaurants, shops, services and people in our community. The winners are announced each year in Bakersfield Life Magazine.

This year, Bakersfield Life Magazine wrote:

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has become a landmark in Kern County with a reputation of helping our own neighbors get through tough situations since 1934. 

“The best part of our jobs is running into former clients around Bakersfield, who once came to us for help in their most vulnerable moments and thanking us for helping them with their cases,” said managing partner David K. Cohn. 

Something that sets the law firm apart is all or most of its staff and attorneys either were born and raised in Bakersfield, or have called it home for years. As such, the care for local cases is important to the firm. 

“The results of our cases have led to safer workplaces, better roadways and, in some cases, more accountability,” Cohn added. 

This year, the contest featured about 100 categories. Readers from throughout Kern County first nominated their favorites in our community, and then voted out of the nominations in each category.

For the finalists, Bakersfield Life titled the categories in the following areas: Food & Drink, Shop, Go, Do, At Your Service, and Mind, Body and Spirit. Chain | Cohn | Stiles was listed under the “At Your Service” category.

The honor comes at a time of great change and milestones for the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm.

  • In 2014, the law firm celebrated its 80-year anniversary of serving the people of Kern County.
  • And this summer, Chain | Cohn | Stiles will be moving into a new building in the heart of downtown Bakersfield, at the southwest corner of Chester Avenue and 18th Street. Since 1934, the firm founded by Morris Chain has been situated at various buildings all within a 1 mile-radius in downtown Bakersfield.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the oldest personal injury law firm in Bakersfield, with attorneys and staff bred locally, giving them an extra edge that a firm outside of Kern County – or in Kern County for that matter – would never have. In all, the staff and attorneys at the law firm care about Kern County, and hold those accountable to make sure local residents are treated properly.

To read the May “Best of Bakersfield” issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine, click here. And to see the full list of winners and favorites, click here.

‘Meet the Attorneys’ videos win second place in international legal marketing contest

April 21, 2015 | 7:01 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles was named a second-place winner in the 2015 “Your Honor Awards,” presented by the Legal Marketing Association at its 30th international conference in April 13 in San Diego.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles won second place in the “Advertising” category in the annual Your Honor Awards, which is the only awards program of its kind in the legal field. The law firm won second place for its “Meet the Attorneys” videos,

The “Your Honor Awards” – which included 170 entries in 16 categories from law firms throughout the world this year – recognizes “creativity, execution, achievement and overall excellence in legal marketing, business development and communications,” according to LMA. The award recipients, according to LMA, are recognized “for their industry-leading work.”

The videos are airing now on Kern County television stations as 30-second spots, and can be found online at Chainlaw.com, including 90-second spots. They’re 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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles worked together on the videos with Bakersfield-based Scope Studios (Scope Creative Agency). The videos in December won first place in the advertising category in the California “Your Honor Awards.”

“We’re incredibly honored to have received this outstanding recognition from the largest legal marketing group in the world,” said David Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “It speaks volumes about our commitment to portray our law firm and attorneys in the same way we practice law: with utmost professionalism. Our firm is composed of compassionate and talented lawyers, and I think our television campaign brings that out.”

LMA is a non-profit professional organization founded in 1985 for those in marketing, business development, client service and communications within the legal profession. It has more than 3,500 members in 48 U.S. states, Canada and 15 other countries.

The Legal Marketing Association summarized Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ videos as follows:

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Too often, the general public has a perception that lawyers are disconnected with the clients they serve. It’s important for the public to view their attorneys as approachable, yet, professional. The goal in the latest video advertisements from Bakersfield, Calif.-based personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles was to break the disconnect barrier in its hometown, and to humanize its attorneys.

The firm’s commercials and Web videos, titled “Meet the Attorneys,” give the public a chance to get to know the firm’s lawyers on a personal level — learn why they became lawyers, what they like most about their jobs and how they can serve them.

The firm created two versions of these videos: The 30-second commercials would appear on local television, and 90-second versions would reside on the firm’s website.

Working with a Bakersfield-based film company, Scope Studios, the firm recorded all seven of the attorneys in similar fashion, answering questions in a candid interview-style format. The hope through these videos is that viewers would choose the attorneys based on their personalities and likability, history in Bakersfield, and their professional accolades. The biggest challenge was trying to develop something that wasn’t the typical personal injury lawyer commercials the public has come to expect — with a “call to action.” The goal was to brand.

From the background music and the slow motion shots of staff to the historical images of the lawyers, the videos put prospective clients in the firm’s offices — showing the care and compassion the firm gives each client. Even without a call-to-action message, the firm received a surge in calls following the videos debut. The videos will be used for more than a year on local TV and on its website. 

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Learn more about the awards and winners by clicking here. To watch the award-winning videos, click here.

To read media coverage of the award, click here to see a mention in The Bakersfield Californian.

Happy Birthday Delano! Chain | Cohn | Stiles helps Kern County city celebrate centennial anniversary

April 14, 2015 | 6:00 am


In 1873, Southern Pacific Railroad decided to build a post between Kern and Tulare counties. They named the area in honor of Columbus Delano, the U.S. Secretary of Interior at the time.

Forty-two years later — on April 13, 1915 — the City of Delano was officially incorporated. And 100 years later, today, Delano is celebrating 100 years.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be a sponsor of Delano’s Centennial Celebration, culminating with a parade and festival on Saturday, April 18. The City of Delano held a birthday party celebration on April 13, the day the city was incorporated.

As the Delano100.com website explains, Delano has long been regarded as an “international community,” populated by people whose origins are from Mexico, Spain, China, France, Japan, Philippines, Russia and India, among others. Last year, for example, thousands congregated in Delano for a month’s worth of events designed to unite, celebrate and commemorate the Kern County city’s large Filipino population. It was the city’s 40th Philippine Weekend.

And the area has long been known for its agriculture and its farmers, who have the task of feeding the world. In the 1960s, for example, Delano became known as the headquarters of the United Farm Workers and its efforts to organize farm workers.

Today, the city hosts some of the best schools in Kern County, and is being continues to develop commercially and attract various large industries, according to Delano100.com. In fact, Delano is being revitalized with a new 160-acre commercial center and residential growth.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles and its attorneys are proud to support the celebrations honoring the City of Delano. In fact, workers’ compensation* lawyer James Yoro, who is Filipino, takes part each year in Philippine Weekend.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles often takes park in the Delano Chamber of Commerce‘s street fairs, which give CCS a chance to answer Delano resident’s legal questions, share tips and information, and give out CCS goodies to the families in Delano.

For Delano’s Centennial celebration, the city has been host to several events already.

  • Delano held a “Centennial Celebration Gala” on Jan. 31.
  • The “Delano Centennial Music Memorial” was held Feb. 26.
  • The “Centennial Music In Our Schools” program was held March 26.
  • The “Centennial City Walk and Earth Day Celebration” was held March 28.
  • The “Happy Birthday City of Delano” event was held April 13.
  • Finally, the “Centennial Parade and Festival” will be held Saturday, April 18, which will feature vendors, concessionaires and exhibitors. The parade begins at 10 a.m. in downtown Main Street after the Kiwanis Club Pancake Breakfast. The festival follows the parade at 12 p.m. at Cecil Park and will feature food, games and fireworks.

For more information on the Centennial celebration, visit the Delano100 website by clicking here.

Kern County Corporate Challenge brings businesses together for second year to compete for League of Dreams

April 8, 2015 | 10:34 am


Last year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles took part in the first Kern County Corporate Challenge, an Olympic-style, business-versus-business competition that benefited a local charity, League of Dreams.

For six weeks, local companies competed against each other in a dozen athletic and non-athletic games including softball, dodge ball, poker, laser tag, and bowling. Companies also fundraised for League of Dreams, which is a free Kern County sports league for children with disabilities.

In the end, the companies raised enough money to provide participation for the more than 270 disabled athletes in Kern County involved in League of Dreams, to play in such sports as basketball, bowling, swimming and baseball. The mission of the League of Dreams is to work towards fulfillment of its motto, “Every child should have the chance to play!”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles came in third place overall in the division, and raised $1,350 in the fundraising competition thanks to donations from Bob Montgomery, Steve Roach of Quantum Data Systems, Chris Thornburg of Brown Armstrong, O’Leary’s Office Products, Metro Record Storage and Shredding and Sunrise Coffee Service.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be competing again in this year’s 2015 Kern County Corporate Challenge.

“The Kern County Corporate Challenge provides a great way for our staff to compete as a team while also supporting a wonderful cause here in our hometown,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner of the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm.

2015 CORPORATE CHALLENGE

The Challenge kicks off April 11 with an Opening Ceremony and finishes on May 30 with a Closing Ceremony. In between, companies will compete in as many as 17 events over seven weeks. The challenge is produced by Q- Event Management, LLC.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles will be competing against several companies — GAF, Paramount Citrus, In-Shape Fitness, Worklogic, Cameron and  AT&T — in the following games:

  • Laser tag on April 18 at Emerald Cove Park
  • Poker on April 23 at Golden West Casino
  • Horseshoes on May 2 at Beech Park
  • Dodgeball from May 11 to May 14 at Riverlakes Community Park

To get the law firm excited about the competition, attorneys Matt Clark and Neil Gehlawat starred in a video about the Kern County Corporate Challenge. The 80s-style video stars the two as they get ready for the challenge, and has been circulating on the web throughout Bakersfield.

You can watch the video by clicking here.

You can follow along with the challenge, and learn more about it, by visiting the Kern County Corporate Challenge webpage here, or by visiting the Kern County Corporate Challenge Facebook page by clicking here.

And if you’d like to support Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ fundraising efforts for League of Dreams, call 661-334-4948 or email jbarrientos@chainlaw.com.

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

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UPDATES

Local media highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles sexual assault cases in Kern County juvenile hall

April 1, 2015 | 10:11 am


Sexual violence is a serious problem in the United States that affects millions of women, and also men. In fact, 1 in 5 women in the United States (and 1 in 59 men) have been raped in their lifetime, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.

But even these statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell law enforcement officials, family or friends about the sexual violence, which is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given.

It’s the goal of “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” observed each year in April, to call attention to sexual violence, and stop it before it begins.

The campaign is all too relevant at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where local media has been covering several cases involving sexual assault represented by the law firm. For the various media videos and articles related to these sexual assault cases, scroll to the bottom of the page to the “Chain | Cohn | Stiles In the News” section.

SEXUAL ASSAULTS AT JUVENILE HALL

On Friday, March 27, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat hosted a press conference following the filing of two claims against the County of Kern on behalf of two females who were sexually assaulted in separate incidents by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while the girls were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall.

Jane Doe 1 was housed at James G. Bowles Juvenile Hall from June 2014 through February 2015. While there, she enrolled in the Pathways Academy commitment program. Throughout September 2014, Kern County Corrections officer Cesar Holguin Navejar allegedly sexually assaulted her. When she reported the incident, supervisors initiated an administrative and criminal investigation. On Oct. 30, 2014, Navejar was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting Jane Doe 1. He is currently facing six felony charges including sexual battery, assault by a public officer and child molestation.

Jane Doe 2, who was also housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall, was allegedly sexually assaulted by a different male Kern County Juvenile Corrections officer from September 2014 to January 2015.  That suspect has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation.

The case of Jane Doe 2 was revealed after yet another juvenile at the facility complained to authorities that the same suspect Jane Doe 2’s case attempted sexual assault of the victim. And it’s possible there are more victims, Gehlawat said.

“If there are other victims, we want to encourage those victims to come out and tell us what happened,” Gehlawat said on the “First Look with Scott Cox” show. “It can help further bring accountability to these officers.”

The cases also bring about questions about employment issues at the juvenile hall, including whether men should be supervising female inmates. Also, the suspect in Jane Doe 2’s case reportedly has a criminal history.

Gehlawat says that the purpose of these civil cases is to deter this behavior and create a change in the juvenile hall system.

Also during an appearance on “First Look with Scott Cox,” attorney Neil Gehlawat discussed the case of a 21-year-old Tehachapi woman who was sexually assaulted by an on-duty Kern County Sheriff’s deputy. Deputy Gabriel Lopez has been charged in that case. You can read about that case by clicking here.

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

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If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, take the following steps:

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CHAIN | COHN | STILES IN THE NEWS

Legal claims filed for girls allegedly sexually assaulted in Kern juvenile hall (KBAK-KBFX / CBS-Fox)

Two claims filed against Kern County in connection with alleged sexual assaults at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian)

Attorney files claims against county, juvenile corrections officers (KGET / NBC)

Attorney: There may be more victims of guards accused of sexual assault at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian)

Attorney lays out sexual assault claims against juvenile hall officers (KBAK-KBFX / CBS-Fox)

Videos: ‘First Look’: More questions arise in alleged assaults at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian, First Look with Scott Cox)

Neil Gehlawat hosts a press conference (Instagram)

Neil Gehlawat sits in with The Bakersfield Californian CEO Richard Beene on “First Look with Scott Cox” (Google+)

Girls claim juvie guards sexually assaulted them (Courthouse News Service)

10 things every employer should know about workers’ compensation

March 25, 2015 | 9:37 am


Note: The following article was published in the April/May edition of the Kern Business Journal, which you can view by clicking here. The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication of the The Bakersfield Californian, showcasing business and industry developments across Kern County.

By James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo

Responsible employers and responsible employees want the same thing: to work in a safe and healthy environment. But despite the best efforts of all involved, accidents can and do happen, and a work injury is an unfortunate incident for all parties involved.

The workers’ compensation* system is based on a trade-off between employees and employers – employees are supposed to promptly receive the benefits for on-the-job injuries, and in return, the workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for injured employees against their employer.

An employer should respond quickly and appropriately to an employee’s work injury claim so as not to unnecessarily delay the provision of the needed benefits.

But the process can be more complicated than that. Here are five things employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries:

1) The employer has a duty investigate.

The law requires that when an employer has been made aware of any facts which would lead to a conclusion that an injury has occurred on the job, the employer must investigate the incident. Being made aware of the incident can be any reporting or complaint made to a supervisor, foreman, manager, administrator or any person of authority.

2) Provide a “claim form” to the employee.

Unless the injury resulted in first aid only, within one day of having knowledge of the injury, the employer must provide a “claim form” to the injured worker. Once an injured employee completes and returns the claim form to his or her employer, workers’ compensation benefits should start flowing quickly if the injury is industrial.

3)  Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.

An injured worker will be entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries arising out of, and in the course of, employment. The injured worker does not need to prove that anyone was at fault for the accident.

4) Workers’ compensation is a benefit delivery system.

There are five types of benefits to which the injured worker may be entitled: temporary disability, permanent disability, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation services, and death benefits.

5) There are two ways to settle a workers’ compensation case.

Once the case is ripe for settlement, the case may be settled by way of “Stipulation with Request for Award,” where the employee is paid a small weekly benefit ($230 to $270) for the percentage of permanent disability that a doctor has assigned to the injured worker, and is also entitled to any continuing reasonable and necessary medical treatment. However, the medical treatment is still under the control of the employer’s insurance company. The other type of settlement is called a “Compromise and Release.” In this case, the employer through its insurance carrier negotiates to buy-out the insurance carrier’s obligation to the injured worker for benefits and future medical care for a lump sum settlement paid to the employee.

As a bonus, here are five more general tips employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries.

1) No employee wants to get hurt on the job.

If you have good employees then give them the benefit of the doubt when handling their claim.

2) Employees don’t plan on getting hurt on the job.

Just because there are no witnesses to the employees accident or injury doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The vast majority of on-the-job injuries are not witnessed by anyone. In addition, most employees are reluctant to report injuries unless they are serious or until they become so.

Consider the following scenario:

A warehouse worker who is required to unload trucks has a particularly busy shift on a Friday when he suddenly tweaks his back lifting a load in the afternoon. Rather than stopping work and reporting it at that time, he decides to try and finish out his shift and see if he can rest it over the weekend in the hopes of alleviating his pain. However, despite resting his back over the weekend, it does not get better and when he reports for work on Monday morning, he is unable to do his regular duties and then reports his injury to his foreman.

Once again, if this person is a good employee, then give him or her the benefit of the doubt and process the claim.

3) Injured employees do not get rich off of workers’ compensation benefits.

If an injured worker is placed on temporary total disability by the company doctor, the benefit is paid at two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage. This benefit is only available for a total of 104 weeks. This means that if an employee has a serious injury that requires hospitalization or multiple surgeries, they may run out of benefits before they have had a chance to recover. Thereafter, the maximum benefit the employee would be entitled to receive is $230 to $270 per week for a limited period of time. In addition, all medical treatment that the injured worker receives is controlled by the insurance company. Injured workers are not entitled to receive any monetary benefit for pain and suffering, lost wages and future earnings.

4) Do not discriminate against the injured worker.

Labor Code section 132a makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge, threaten to discharge, or in any manner discriminate against an employee because that employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, or has made known his or her intention to file such a claim or has received a disability rating, award or settlement. Whenever possible, the employer should make good-faith efforts to determine whether or not the employee can be returned to work with reasonable accommodations.

5) Treat the injured worker the way you would want to be treated if you suffered an on-the-job injury.

Employers should try and follow the Golden Rule whenever an employee suffers an on-the-job injury.

– James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney in the workers’ compensation department at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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For more information and tips on workers’ compensation, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

And if you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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

Annual Cioppino Feed to benefit several Bakersfield nonprofits, causes

March 18, 2015 | 9:53 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles had a great time at the Bakersfield West Rotary Cioppino Feed, benefiting several Kern County charities. Pictured here on Instagram are attorneys Matt Clark, Beatriz Trejo, Chad Boyles and Neil Gehlawat. 

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Hundreds of Kern County residents will sit together Saturday evening with plastic bibs around their necks and dig into seafood stew — all in the name of several great local causes.

The Cioppino Feed is an annual fundraiser that this year will benefit the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the Bakersfield West Rotary Breast Cancer Fund at San Joaquin Community Hospital, the Bakersfield West Rotary Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County.

The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be a sponsor this year for the event.

“The Cioppino Feed is one of Bakersfield’s most successful charity events of the year, which helps support some of our areas greatest causes,” said Matt Clark, senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Our law firm is thrilled to be able to support this event and these local nonprofits.”

The Cioppino Feed, the 23rd annual fundraiser, is hosted by Bakersfield West Rotary from 6 to 10 p.m. on March 21 at Monsignor Leddy Hall at Garces Memorial High School.

Cioppino is an Italian-American fish stew that combines crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish in a tomato in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread. The annual event will also feature live and silent auctions to further benefit the charities.

Here’s a little bit more about each of the befitting local causes:

  • Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking is a grassroots coalition created in 2012 aimed to combat human trafficking in Kern County through prevention, protection and partnerships.
  • Bakersfield West Rotary Breast Cancer Fund at San Joaquin Community Hospital is a perpetual program that helps provide annual mammograms, biopsies, compression garments and other needs for women in Kern County through the new Breast Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital. The center includes state-of-the-art equipment such as Tomosynthesis 3D Mammography and biopsy equipment.
  • Bakersfield West Rotary Foundation, established in 1993, serves the less fortunate youth of Kern County by providing in local education, literacy, health and welfare. Its mission is to provide assistance to those organizations and individuals dedicated to these goals.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County serves some 5,000 local boys and girls throughout our area. The Cioppino Feed funds will help the club continue to inspire and enable these youth to reach their fullest potential as productive, responsive and caring citizens.

If you’d like to support the Cioppino Feed or would like more information, call Howdy Miller at 747-5380. Tickets are $100 each.

To see various media coverage of the event, click the articles here:

And to see other causes and nonprofits supported in recent years by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, visit the “Community” page 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.

Failing workers’ compensation system ‘adding inequality to injury’

March 10, 2015 | 10:25 am


Note: The following article was written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner James A. Yoro, who manages the Bakersfield-based law firm’s Workers’ Compensation* Department, for publication into The Bakersfield Californian’s “Community Voices” section. You can the full article in the Kern County Journal here

By James A. Yoro

One of the most important protections that employees have is a workers’ compensation system that is supposed to provide them with minimum necessary benefits when they suffer an injury on the job.

This system was predicated on a “Grand Bargain” that was initiated during the Industrial Revolution to deal with the rising tide of work-related injuries and death. The injured worker gave up the right to sue the employer for civil damages. In exchange, the employee would receive medical treatment and a sufficient amount of monetary benefits to help them get by during their recovery period. If their injuries caused some permanent limitation or restriction on their ability to function, additional benefits were paid to reflect their level of disability. If they were unable to return to their usual and customary job, they would be provided retraining to help them adjust to other more suitable employment within their limitations.

Workers’ compensation was a progressive idea that came to fruition at a time when we as a society recognized that it was not fair to treat injured workers as if they were nothing more than a piece of broken machinery – something to be discarded and replaced. Human capital is a valuable commodity that contributes to the success of our economy. Therefore, when workers get injured, they should be helped and cared for and not marginalized. Originally, this was the goal of the Workers’ Compensation system. At the beginning of the 20th century, all 50 states adopted such a system in accordance with this philosophy.

But in the last 15 years, things have gone horribly awry for the injured worker.

Within the last week, two investigative reports and several news articles – including by OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor, National Public Radio and The Washington Post – reveal how poorly injured workers are now being treated in the Workers’ Compensation system and the effect this cost shifting of the burden has affected our economy and our society.

The Department of Labor report titled, “Adding inequality to injury: The costs of failing to protect workers on the job,” summarized its findings as follows:

“The costs of workplace injuries are borne primarily by injured workers, their families, and taxpayer-supported components of the social safety net. Changes in state based workers’ compensation insurance programs have made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to receive the full benefits (including adequate wage replacement payments and coverage for medical expenses) to which they are entitled. Employers now provide only a small percentage (about 20 percent) of the overall financial cost of workplace injuries and illnesses through workers’ compensation. This cost-shift has forced injured workers, their families and taxpayers to subsidize the vast majority of the lost income and medical care costs generated by these conditions.”

The study concluded that the “failure of many employers to prevent millions of work injuries and illnesses each year, and the failure of the broken workers’ compensation system to ensure that workers do not bear the costs of their injuries and illnesses, are truly adding inequality to injury.”

I have represented injured workers for more than 25 years and I’ve seen firsthand this slow deterioration in the system and how it has affected those most vulnerable in our society – the injured, the handicapped and disabled – in their struggle to obtain the benefits they deserve and achieve some measure of dignity. At times, my level of frustration is overwhelming as I gaze into the eyes of my clients and see the look of quiet desperation in their eyes as they struggle to avoid near poverty, bankruptcy and sometimes divorce simply because they got injured on the job.

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

If this is the measure for progress then the workers’ compensation system is in a period of regression. The “Grand Bargain” is no longer a bargain.

– James A. Yoro is a certified workers’ compensation attorney with nearly 40 years of legal experience, and partner at the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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Learn more about the recent reports on the workers’ compensation system:

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If you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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

Local families, attorneys to march against police misconduct in ‘Walk for Justice’

March 3, 2015 | 10:08 am


Note: To see media coverage of this event, scroll to the bottom.

Prominent attorneys will be joining local families in the “Walk for Justice” on Saturday, March 14, to speak out against local cases of police misconduct, wrongful death and civil rights violations.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat will be joining lawyers from the prominent Los Angeles-based firm Geragos & Geragos at the 1 p.m. march, which starts at 1700 Flower St. in east Bakersfield.

That’s near the site where David Silva lost his life on the night of May 7, 2013, when officers approached him as he lay on the grass across the street from Kern County Medical Center. Silva, a 33-year-old father of four, was severely beaten by seven baton-wielding officers, and died an hour later.

The two prominent law firms are working together on the Silva wrongful death case, as well as other Kern County cases against the Kern County Sheriff’s Department and Bakersfield Police Department. The civil lawsuit is ongoing. 

Silva’s family, joined by other families from local cases of police misconduct, are now advocating for an end to police brutality.

To read more about the Silva case, click here.

The marchers will be meeting at four locations where incidents of police brutality have taken place, and will leave flowers in remembrance of victim’s lives. Those victims also include Ronnie (Pops) Ledesma, David Turner and James De La Rosa. The march will end at Heritage Park.

“Be the voice for those who no longer have one,” organizers stated in a flier for the march.

Attorney Neil Gehlawat will be speaking about local cases, as well as a representative from Geragos & Geragos. Attorney Mark Geragos is representing the families of two men killed by Bakersfield police in separate incidents, including the killing of Ramiro James Villegas on Nov. 13. That claim seeks damages for violation of civil and constitutional rights, wrongful death, punitive damages and emotional injuries. It says Villegas got out of his vehicle and held his hands up after being cornered by officers into a light pole. Officers said Villegas reached toward his waistband, and the officers opened fire, killing him. No gun or other weapon was found in Villegas’ possession.

For more information on the march, visit the “Walk for Justice” Facebook event page by clicking here, or call 661-747-1110. The march is sponsored by “Concerned Citizens of Bakersfield #UnitedWeStand.”

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Media:

The Bakersfield Californian: March draws attention to deaths in encounters with law enforcement

KGET Channel 17 (NBC): Locals call for more accountability in law enforcement

Instagram: CCS’ Neil Gehlawat speaks at “Walk for Justice” event

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Police misconduct, police brutality and the denial of civil rights have the effect of undermining our country’s Constitution. Common forms of police misconduct include unnecessary use of force, false imprisonment, sexual harassment and assault, illegal searches and planting evidence, among other circumstances. If you or someone you know has been a victim of police misconduct or police brutality, call the Bakersfield police misconduct lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the law firm’s website at Chainlaw.com.