New state law gives sexual assault, abuse victims more time to seek justice

January 29, 2020 | 10:21 am


The new year brings with it a new law in California allowing victims of childhood sexual assault more time to file lawsuits, and seek justice.

Assembly Bill 218 gives victims of childhood sexual abuse either until age 40 or five years from discovery of the abuse to file civil lawsuits. The previous limit had been 26, or within three years from discovery of the abuse. It also allows victims of all ages three years to bring claims that would have otherwise been barred due to existing statutes.

“Abuse victims are grateful to get a shot at justice through this new law without a stringent time limit,” said managing partner and attorney David Cohn, who has represented many victims of sexual abuse through his work at the Law Office of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “It’s important for victims to come forward when they are ready, and ultimately protect our community from future abuse, and obtain accountability.”

Specifically, the new law is a game-changer for childhood victims because it changes how survivors are treated and supported.

In recent years, allegations of sexual abuse have been voiced by victims and conveyed through media reports from Olympic teams, school children, Boy Scouts, and Catholic churchgoers, with media highlighted such allegations. We’ve seen an uprising of women (and men, too) who have gone public with their stories of sexual harassment, assault and abuse, and systemic sexism, particularly in the world of Hollywood.

In fact, the California Catholic Conference in a statement to media described sexual abuse by members of the clergy as a “legacy of shame.”

“It is a legacy of shame for all of us in the Church, and we are aware that nothing can undo the violence done to victim-survivors or restore the innocence and trust that was taken from them,” the statement read. “Ultimately, our hope is that all victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse in all institutional settings will be able to have their pain and suffering addressed and resolved and so our prayers are that AB 218 will be a step forward in that direction.”

California is at least the third state this year to pass such a law, according to reports. Earlier this year, New York and New Jersey raised their statutes of limitations to age 55. New York also suspended its statute of limitations for one year, leading to hundreds of lawsuits against hospitals, schools, the Roman Catholic Church and the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

“This law puts powerful institutions like the Catholic hierarchy, public schools and sports leagues on notice that they cannot allow predators to molest children, cover up their crimes and escape responsibility,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been involved in several lawsuits in recent years in representing victims of sexual abuse and sex assault:

  • Our attorneys filed lawsuits in federal court against the County of Kern and a juvenile corrections officer on behalf of a young woman who were sexually abused at juvenile hall.
  • Our lawyers also filed claims on behalf of several students who were victims of sexual misconduct at North High School. Kern County Sheriff’s Office has arrested Edwin Rodriguez 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.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles represented Karen Frye, who was sexually molested at Lerdo Jail by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department detentions deputy. The law firm filed suit against the county for civil rights violations, conspiracy, sexual assault and battery, negligence, fraud, breach of contract and excessive use of force. The department also attempted to “buy off” Frye by offering her $1,500 in exchange for her agreement to not sue the department. That case settled for $300,000.
  • We represented a woman who was sexually assaulted by Kern County deputy Gabriel Lopez in her home in Tehachapi. Lopez sexually assaulted at least two other people as well. He pleaded no contest to two counts of assault by a public officer, two counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of sexual battery, and was sentenced to two years in prison. Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys also represented a 79-year-old woman who called the sheriff’s office during a dispute with her husband, who was diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimer’s. She, too, was sexually assaulted by Lopez in a similar fashion to his other victims. The third victim was quietly paid $5,000 by the department, and was unable to bring a civil claim.

In addition, the partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles penned a “Community Voices” article, calling on the County of Kern to cease practices that call for confidential settlements in lawsuits pertaining to victims of sexual assault, as well as paying “hush money” to those victims.

Here’s what you can do if you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused:

  • Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. This can be difficult to do, but 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 scenario. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations and they often have someone on staff that can help with the stress.
  • Contact an attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a legal professional, who has understanding of sexual abuse law.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, or sexually abused or assaulted by someone in authority, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles launches unique scholarship to support a new generation of young drivers in Kern County

January 22, 2020 | 6:00 am


The application period for the scholarship has ended. Please tune in to chainlaw.com in January 2021 for more scholarship opportunities.

El período para aplicar para la beca ha terminado. Visite abogadosenbakersfield.com en Enero 2021 para más oportunidades de becas.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles launches unique scholarship to support a new generation of young drivers in Kern County

One-of-a-kind “GPS scholarship” aims to curb the financial burden of driver’s education, with a focus on safety

BAKERSFIELD, CALIF. – The Law Office of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which focuses on helping accident and injury victims in the Central Valley, has launched a new scholarship called the “Guided Partners in Safety (GPS) Scholarship,” which is aimed to financially support local high school students through their driver’s education training while keeping safety at the forefront.

Auto accidents are the No. 1 killer of American teenagers, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Association. In fact, six teenagers aged 16 to 19 die every day in the United States from motor vehicle crash injuries. Distracted driving, excessive speed, and lack of seatbelt use are major dangers and causes of teen driver crashes.

In addition, budget cuts have caused schools to eliminate driver’s education programs, leading students to seek third-party instruction. As a result, teens from lower-income households may not be able to fully enjoy this rite of passage. In fact, the number of teen drivers nationally is on the decline, with the cost associated to driving as one key factor, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Today, nearly half as many 16-year-olds are getting a driver’s license than 30 years ago, according to a study by the University of Michigan.

The GPS Scholarship aims to support a new generation of teen drivers, build guided partners in safety, and help pay for student driver’s education.

“The safety of our youth is a top concern,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Our goal is to help those in need, and at the same time reinforce the importance of talking to teen drivers about the responsibilities, rules, and consequences that come with getting behind the steering wheel.”

Among the qualifications, applicants must:

  • Have at least a 2.5 GPA
  • Be enrolled in a Kern County high school
  • Write a 200-word (max) creative essay answering: “Why do you want to drive?”
  • Apply by clicking here. Questions can be emailed to gpsscholarship2020@gmail.com.

The deadline to apply is March 31. Other state qualifications for driving apply. Scholarship recipients must attend and observe a Victim Impact Panel hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County.

You can view the GPS Scholarship flier by clicking here.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles lanza una beca única para apoyar a una nueva generación de conductores jóvenes en el condado de Kern

“Beca GPS” tiene como objetivo frenar la carga financiera de la educación del conductor, con un enfoque en la seguridad

El despacho de abogados Chain | Cohn | Stiles, que se enfoca en ayudar a las víctimas de accidentes y lesiones en el Valle Central, ha lanzado una nueva beca llamada “Beca de Socios Guiados en Seguridad,” que tiene como objetivo apoyar financieramente a los estudiantes locales de secundaria a través de la capacitación educativa para conductores mientras se mantiene seguridad a la vanguardia.

Los accidentes automovilísticos son el asesino número uno de los adolescentes estadounidenses, según la Asociación Nacional de Seguridad del Tráfico en Carreteras. De hecho, seis adolescentes de 16 a 19 años mueren todos los días en los Estados Unidos a causa de accidentes automovilísticos. La conducción distraída, la velocidad excesiva y la falta de uso del cinturón de seguridad son los principales peligros y causas de los choques de los conductores adolescentes.

Además, recortes de presupuesto han provocado que las escuelas eliminen los programas de clases de manejo, lo que lleva a los estudiantes a buscar instrucción de terceros. Como resultado, es posible que los adolescentes de hogares de bajos ingresos no puedan disfrutar plenamente de este rito de iniciación. De hecho, el número de conductores adolescentes a nivel nacional está disminuyendo, con el costo asociado a la conducción como un factor clave, según la Fundación AAA para la Seguridad del Tráfico. Hoy, casi la mitad de los jóvenes de 16 años obtienen una licencia de conducir que los de hace 30 años, según un estudio de la Universidad de Michigan.

La beca GPS tiene como objetivo apoyar a una nueva generación de conductores adolescentes, crear socios guiados en seguridad y ayudar a pagar la educación de los estudiantes.

“La seguridad de nuestra juventud es una preocupación principal”, dijo David Cohn, socio gerente de Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Nuestro objetivo es ayudar a los necesitados y, al mismo tiempo, reforzar la importancia de hablar con los conductores adolescentes sobre las responsabilidades, las reglas y las consecuencias que conlleva ponerse al volante”.

Entre las calificaciones, los solicitantes deben:

  • Tener un promedio de calificaciones de 2.5
  • Estar inscrito en una escuela secundaria del condado de Kern
  • Escribir un ensayo creativo de 200 palabras (máximo) respondiendo: “¿Por qué quieres conducir?”
  • Aplica aquí. Preguntas se pueden mandar a gpsscholarship2020@gmail.com.

La fecha límite para presentar la solicitud es el 31 de marzo. Se aplican otras calificaciones estatales para conducir. Los beneficiarios de la beca deben observar un Panel de Impacto de Víctimas organizado por Madres Contra Conducir Ebrio, Conado de Kern.

Puede ver el folleto de la beca GPS haciendo clic aquí.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Si usted o alguien que conoce se lastima en un accidente, llame a los abogados de Chain | Cohn | Stiles al (661) 323-4000, o visita la página chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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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.⁣

* Aviso: Hacer un reclamo falso o fraudulento de compensación para trabajadores es un crimen grave sujeto a un máximo de 5 años de prisión o una multa de hasta $150,000 o el doble del valor del fraude, el que sea mayor, o tanto por el encarcelamiento y multa.

‘Bored in Bakersfield’ show, Chain | Cohn | Stiles visit famous Wool Growers Restaurant

January 15, 2020 | 11:01 am


It’s a place where Chain | Cohn | Stiles founder Morris Chain and other attorneys at the law firm dined often. Today, Wool Growers Restaurant continues to be a Basque staple in Bakersfield.

In fact, photos of Chain and other veterans of the firm still hang on the restaurant walls, and a sandwich on the menu is named after Morris Chain. So it was only natural for Chain | Cohn | Stiles to join the Bored in Bakersfield show as they highlighted the food and history of this famous restaurant.

Watch the Bored in Bakersfield show below as longtime law firm partners and attorneys David Cohn and Jim Yoro join former Miss Bakersfield Arlene Carrillo and local radio DJ Danny Hill in a visit to Wool Growers.

To learn more about the history of Wool Growers, read below the video, and for more about Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ history and 85-year anniversary last year, go to bit.ly/chainlaw85.

HISTORY OF WOOL GROWERS

Wool Growers is a family restaurant, and as the establishment’s website explains: “Mayie met J.B. Maitia, a bartender, and married him in 1947. They had two children, Jenny and Daniel. In 1954, when Mayie was only 25 years old she and J.B. opened their own restaurant, the Wool Growers Cafe on Sumner Street. Mayie, along with her daughter, Jenny and granddaughter Christiane, is still running the restaurant today.”

The restaurant itself sits in the heart of Old Town Kern, on East 19th Street between Kern and Baker streets. It offers traditional Basque family-style dining, and is an authentic example of how hard-working shepherds dined. The Spanish shepherd community — originally from Pyrenees region of Spain — sprang up in Kern County in the late 1800s and found they could support stable industries such as grain and sheep farming, according to KCET, PBS. Today, Bakersfield has the second-largest expat Basque community in the U.S., second to Boise, Idaho.

Over the years, the family has helped those who immigrated to Bakersfield from Basque country by employing them at the restaurant, and contributes to our local community in many ways.

“The walls of local restaurants are lined with memorabilia documenting this history, and proprietors often share colorful stories as they mix up a fresh batch of drinks or deliver a bowl of piping hot cabbage soup,” according to KCET.

Wool Growers serves ample portions, beginning with an initial spread that is dubbed the “set-up,” which includes a cabbage-based soup, hearty baked beans, and a spicy tomato sauce. Fresh-baked bread, green salad, and fresh tomato salad with red onion and balsamic vinegar is also provided. Daily specials include roast lamb, roast tri-tip with spaghetti, garlic fried chicken, and roast pork loin with mashed potatoes. Fans rave about the perfectly-cooked French fries.

As for the Morris B. Chain Sandwich, it is served with tri-tip or lamb, and loaded with garlic.

“Morris had a reputation for being one of the great connoisseur of really good food,” Cohn said on the Bored in Bakersfield episode. “He loved to come to the Wool Growers and he could never get enough garlic … If you like garlic, you’ll be in garlic heaven.”

Today, it’s a place where all of Bakersfield can sit and dine together

“You really can’t beat the ambiance this establishment provides,” said attorney Jim Yoro. “Where else can you go in Bakersfield and see in one table half the judges from the superior court, and in another table half the farmers in the southern San Joaquin Valley, and in another table a bunch of oilfield executives? And we all eat together.”

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles names two new law firm partners

January 8, 2020 | 9:32 am


For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the New Year brought about an end, and a beginning.

It was the end of the law firm’s 85-year anniversary (Morris Chain founded the firm in 1934), which was commemorated with videos, giveaways, and history-focused media in local publications. Catch up on all the anniversary recognitions at bit.ly/chainlaw85.

But 2020 also brought with it new beginnings, as the law firm announced the newest law firm partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles: Chad Boyles and Beatriz Trejo. They join senior partners David Cohn, Jim Yoro, and Matt Clark.

Learn more about Beatriz and Chad below:

 

Beatriz A. Trejo is an associate with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where she focuses on workers’ compensation cases. She is a Certified Legal Specialist in Workers’ Compensation, the recipient of the “Workers’ Compensation Young Lawyer of the Year” award in California, and has been named to the Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list by Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine.

Beatriz attended Highland High School in Bakersfield before earning her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge. She earned her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio.

She has practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board since 2012. She began her practice as a defense attorney, representing, self-insured employers, insurance companies, private employers, municipalities, school districts, and governmental entities in all aspects of workers’ compensation defense. In 2015, began representing injured workers through her work at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Beatriz was selected by the State Bar of California as the 2017 “Workers’ Compensation Young Lawyer of the Year.” She is past president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter, and has been named as one of the 20 Under 40 People to Watch by Bakersfield Life Magazine. She is a Certified Legal Specialist in Workers’ Compensation by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.

She was also recently recognized by her peers in the “Top Attorneys” poll voted on by local lawyers, highlighting the best lawyers in their practice areas. Recently, Beatriz was named to the Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list by Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine. This high honor is awarded to just 2.5% of lawyers under the age of 40 in the Southern California region.

She is an active member of CAAA’s Latino Caucus, and serves on the panels of the Immigration Justice Collaborative, which aims to educate immigrants on their constitutional rights. She is a frequent speaker for Kern County Small Business Academies, educating new business owners on work injury laws, and serves on the CSU Bakersfield Pre-Law Advisory Committee, helping aspiring lawyers.

Outside of the office, she supports her community through local organization including Latina Leaders of Kern County, Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation for Community Wellness.

Beatriz is fluent in Spanish, and appears on local Spanish radio stations, assisting local residents with their legal questions.

 

Chad J. A. Boyles is an associate with the firm, focusing on personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Chad was born and raised in Bakersfield, and graduated from Highland High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in political science from Cal State Bakersfield where he was also a part of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society. He then attended Whittier Law School where he served as Managing Editor of the Law Review. His note, entitled “Money Can’t Buy You Love … and It Shouldn’t Buy You A Seat In Congress Either,” was published in the Whittier Law Review. He graduated cum laude from Whittier in 2010.

After law school, Chad worked briefly in Pasadena before returning to Bakersfield and joining another local firm. For 2 years, he litigated state cases covering a wide variety of legal issues, including personal injury and civil rights. Chad has also provided advice and counseling to clients facing legal issues on a volunteer basis at Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc.

Outside of the office, Chad is involved in several goodwill efforts throughout the community, including taking underprivileged students back-to-school shopping and mentoring pre-law students. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the CSU Bakersfield Alumni Association. He is a graduate of Leadership Bakersfield, class of 2019.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

New year, new laws for California drivers, police, bicyclist, and more

January 1, 2020 | 6:00 am


The New Year brings new laws to California.

For 2020, several new laws will affect roadway safety starting Jan. 1, including increased distracted driving penalties, peace officer use of deadly force, bicycle turning movements at intersections, wildlife salvage permits, and motor carrier permit rules. The following laws are relevant for Chain | Cohn | Stiles legal practices, as the law firm handles accident and injury cases.

  • Traffic control devices for bicycles (AB 1266): This new law allows bicycles to travel straight through a right or left-hand turn-only lane while at an intersection, if an official traffic control device indicates the movement is permitted. The California Department of Transportation would be required to develop standards to implement the provisions.
  • License points for distracted driving (AB 47): Current law prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone in a handheld manner; if found in violation, the offense is punishable by a fine. A new law will levy an additional penalty on a driver found in violation of California’s hands-free law: a point will be added on to a driver’s record for each hands-free violation occurring within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense.
  • Peace officer use of deadly force (AB 392): This new law revises the standards for use of deadly force by peace officers. The use of deadly force by a peace officer is justifiable when the officer reasonably believes it is necessary, amending the reasonable force standard to “objectively reasonable force.”
  • Law enforcement training (SB 230): This new law requires law enforcement agencies to rewrite use of force policy and provide mandatory training to all peace officers in order to comply with the new law.
  • Cannabis and passenger vehicles (AB 1810): California law will now prohibit the consumption of cannabis, in any manner, by passengers in a bus, taxicab, pedicab, limousine, housecars, or camper. This exemption is now only applicable to alcoholic beverages consumed by passengers in these types of vehicles.

Besides these traffic laws above, you should be aware of several other new laws in 2020 affecting the workplace, your privacy, animals, schools, and the criminal justice system.

WORKPLACE

  • Minimum wage (SB 3): The minimum wage in California goes up by one dollar to $12 an hour for workers at companies with 25 or fewer employees and to $13 an hour for workers at larger companies.
  • Hairstyles (SB 188): California becomes the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination based on a person’s natural hairstyle or hair texture. Protected hairstyles include braids, twists and locks.
  • Lactation accommodations (SB 142): This new law requires companies to provide appropriate lactation accommodations that is close to the employee’s work area, has electrical plugs and is free of intrusion.
  • Sexual harassment (SB 1343): Requires businesses with at least five employees to provide sexual harassment training to its employees within six months of being hired, and every two years after that.
  • Paid family leave (SB 83): New parents will have more time to care for their child. Benefits under Paid Family Leave will increase from six weeks to eight weeks starting on July 1, 2020.

HOUSEHOLDS

  • AB 1482: Rent control: The law limits rent increases to 5 percent each year plus inflation, but never above 10 percent total. The law does not apply to housing built in the 15 years prior. The limit is a rolling number so the date housing is excluded changes every year.
  • AB 652: Religious displays: The law prohibits landlords and homeowner associations from banning the display of religious items on entry doors or door frames. The items cannot be larger than 26 by 12 inches.
  • SB 222: Housing discrimination: This law expands existing law to protect veterans and military personnel against housing discrimination.
  • SB 30: Domestic partners: This law allows heterosexual couples to register as domestic partners instead of getting married. Currently, only heterosexual couples age 62 or older were allowed to register as domestic partners because of social security benefits. The new law could help couples with combined higher incomes avoid the federal marriage tax penalty.

PRIVACY

  • Online privacy (AB 375): The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) gives internet users more control over their data. Among other things, the law gives users the right to know what data is collected, the right to reject the sale of your information and the right to delete your data.

EDUCATION

  • School suspensions (SB 419): The law bans schools from suspending students in grades 4-8 for disrupting school activities or defying teachers and administrators. Students in grades K-3 already have this protection. High school students must wait until 2025 for the same benefit.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

  • Juvenile hall (SB 439): Minors under 12 who commit non-violent crimes would be released to his or her parent or legal guardian instead of being sent to juvenile hall. The law does not apply to minors who commit murder, rape, or great bodily harm.
  • Human trafficking (SB 970): Operators of motels and hotels in California must provide training to teach its staff how to identify victims of human trafficking.

ANIMALS

  • Dog areas (AB 1762): The California Department of Parks and Recreation has until July 1 to establish a comprehensive list of state parks that allow dogs, including the specific areas that allow dogs and the total miles of trails that are open to dogs.

WILDFIRES

  • Public safety power shutoffs (SB 167): Requires utilities to devise plans on reducing the negative impact of planned power shutoffs to first responders and people with disabilities.
  • Tree trimming (AB 247): Gives the California Public Utilities Commission more oversight over tree trimming efforts by utilities. Power companies would have to submit timely reports on their brush and tree trimming work.
  • Wildfire warning center (SB 209): Establishes a wildfire warning center to broaden the state’s ability to predict and prepare for wildfire. The center would rely on a statewide network of automated weather stations and fire detection cameras.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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

Holiday season a time for giving (and some local organizations you can support, too)

December 18, 2019 | 6:00 am


♫ “It’s the most charitable time of the year” ♫

The holidays are a time for giving. In fact, about 34 percent of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, and of those donations, about 18 percent are given in December alone. Nonprofits that benefit the most from the holiday spirit are medical research organizations such as the American Cancer Society. Such organizations receive an average of 20 percent of their donations in December alone.

For Bakersfield-based injury and accident law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the holiday season is not the only time of year for giving. In 2019, the law firm, and its attorneys and staff, supported dozens of worthy causes, nonprofits and charitable organizations throughout Kern County during the previous 11 months as well.

“Kern County is the home of our law firm, but it is also the home of our clients, friends, and families,” said managing partner David Cohn. “It’s important we all come together to help our neighbors.”

As we enter the holidays and New Year’s, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to recommend local causes and nonprofits you can consider to support, as well as provide some giving tips (below). For a full list of causes supported by the law firm, visit our “Community” page at chainlaw.com.

  • The Hub of Bakersfield: A new local nonprofit, The Hub of Bakersfield, is committed to redefining and revitalizing Bakersfield’s urban core through various programs, events, and projects. As part of the nonprofit, the new Bakersfield Innovation Lab is a 10-month program where a select group of participants, who are passionate about the place they call home, come together to develop an impactful project to make the greater downtown Bakersfield area a more desirable place to live, work and be for all. Why is this relevant for Chain | Cohn | Stiles? Well, associate attorney Tanya Alsheikh is part of the inaugural Innovation Lab class, and marketing director Jorge Barrientos is a program facilitator and a member of the board of directors for The Hub! Not to mention, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has called downtown Bakersfield home for 85 years, so this is an important program. Learn more about Hub of Bakersfield and the Innovation Lab at thehubofbakersfield.org.
  • BMoA: The Bakersfield Museum of Art strives to enhance the quality of life through art appreciation and educational opportunities in the visual arts for Bakersfield and Kern County residents and visitors.
  • Bike Bakersfield: This nonprofit is a local bicycle advocacy coalition providing family friendly bike rides, bicycle safety education, and bike repair. In particular, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Bike Bakersfield as part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and safety helmets throughout Kern County through “Project Light Up The Night” and “Kidical Mass” events, the latter of which also features bike repairs, safety demonstrations, and a group bike ride.
  • Bakersfield Homeless Center: A recent Kern County Homeless Collaborative report that found a 50 percent increase in the local homeless population over last year’s count. Efforts by City of Bakersfield and Kern County to tackle the issue are underway. To help, Chain | Cohn | Stiles earlier this year donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team. The program helps homeless center residents move forward with their lives while making a difference in our community. The program is designed to be a transitional program, where participants gain real-world skills, build confidence, and develop experience to find long-term employment.
  • MADD Kern County: Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,400 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s 12 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. We can all play a part to help make sure our streets are safe. Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board, regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and is the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice” Award by MADD Southern California. Law firm marketing director Jorge Barrientos is the planning committee chairman for the annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash“, in which the firm is presenting sponsor.
  • Valley Fever: Last year, California experienced 2,200 new cases of Valley Fever, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. In fact, Kern County residents were affected the most with 890 cases. Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials warn people about Valley Fever year-round, and the firm recently joined the Valley Fever Institute at the annual Valley Fever Walk aimed at raising awareness of Valley Fever.

Giving Tips

  • Before you give to any charity, examine the charity’s finances. Make sure the group is a financially healthy organization, sustainable, accountable and transparent. Look for signs of effectiveness. The charity’s ability to bring about meaningful change is the key reason for their existence and for your donation. These websites will help you check on your charity:
  • Give to an organization that matches your beliefs and goals. There is a charity out there that matches your intentions. Take the time to find it and confirm it offers the programs and services that match your charitable interests.
  • Take the time to research your charity so that you can trust them, and then give an unrestricted gift so the charity has the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services and to spend the money where it is most needed to continue their day-to-day good work. Don’t put strings on your gift.
  • If you gave earlier in the year to an organization helping in a disaster, go back to that organization and give more. Much of the need from any disaster comes later, during the recovery period.
  • Giving before the year’s end can get you a tax break. Check with your tax planner to see if you’ll benefit.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

How a legendary local lawyer helped a young man in need, who then paid him back 60 years later

December 11, 2019 | 11:00 am


Over its 85-year history, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has seen and heard countless inspirational stories from the people of Kern County, who visit the law office for assistance during what is typically their time of greatest need.

The story of Kenneth Cannon is no different. Back in 2015, 87-year-old Cannon visited the law office and shared his story of how Morris Chain helped him 60 years before:

At that time, Cannon, of Wasco, was in his prime. But he ended up in a fight with a neighbor that landed him in court facing a lawsuit.

“I punched him,” Cannon said. “It was the wrong thing to do, but that’s what happened.”

His neighbor had broken a bone and was suing him for $10,000. So, he went to the legendary local lawyer Morris Chain to defend him. Chain heard him out and told Cannon he would have done the same thing to his neighbor.

In 1955, Morris Chain had been practicing law in Bakersfield for more than 20 years already, and he had formed a formidable team around him including secretary Helen Banducci, and lawyers Albert Noriega and Milton Younger. Investigator Leonard Winters also worked directly with Chain for more than three decades. In fact, by the 1960s, Chain had achieved a state-wide reputation for being flamboyant in the courtroom while being dramatic, witty, entertaining and exciting to watch. But his performance always was firmly anchored to the logic of the law. He would be called “the Rembrandt of the courtroom,” and even served as a lawyer in the infamous Spade Cooley murder trial.

Back to Cannon, Chain had ultimately managed to get his fine reduced from $10,000 to $1,500, still a hefty fine back in those days. Morris’ fee was $100, but Cannon was working in the potato fields and so he promised to pay Chain over time. Chain told him: “Once you get on your feet, you pay me.”

Fast forward 60 years, Kenneth — an Air Force veteran who served in the Korean War — noticed in the newspaper that the law firm moved offices from the Bank of America building to Chester Avenue and 18th. He walked into the lobby with a new $100 bill he took out from the bank stuffed inside of a small yellow envelope, and asked for David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“I know Morris died in the 1970s, but since you still have Chain’s name at your firm, I felt I should give the money to you.” Cannon told Cohn. “It’s been on my mind this whole time. I had quite a guilty conscience about it all. I was obligated to pay back my debt. I should have done it long ago.”

Cohn accepted the $100 bill on behalf of Chain. He later sent Cannon a photo of Morris Chain and a $100 check as a token of appreciation for sharing his story. Cannon later wrote back that he had framed the check and hung it inside of his home.

Local columnist Richard Beene made a mention of this tale in his blog, and called it “a sweet story of honesty, forgiveness and faith that will send you into the weekend with a smile.”

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Driving in drizzle: 12 tips for navigating safely in the rain (Rule 1: slow down!)

December 4, 2019 | 6:00 am


With rain making its way into the Central Valley, the rich soil is getting a vital ingredient that helps grow the crops to feed our country. But, the water sprinkles are also landing on our roadways, creating dangerous driving conditions.

Rain is directly associated with higher accident rates. In fact, out of the nearly 6 million motor vehicle crashes that occur each year in the United States, about 22 percent are weather-related, according to Federal Highway Administration. Knowing how wet roads and reduced visibility affects the way your vehicle handles will help you drive safely in rainy conditions.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with tips from local authorities, remind drivers to be aware of the roadway hazards associated with rainy weather.

“Let’s all make sure we slow down on the streets of Bakersfield when it’s wet and raining,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Slowing down helps you maintain control of your vehicle, and could mean the difference between a crash, and making sure you and others get home safe.”

Here are some more tips for driving in the rain:

Wait: If you feel uncomfortable driving in the rain and can postpone your trip or commute, wait until the weather improves before driving. There is no reason to put yourself in danger if driving in wet conditions is not necessary.

Plan Ahead: If you must drive, always give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Never rush when it’s raining heavily.

Check Your Car: Check your headlights, tail lights, and windshield wipers to make sure that they will work efficiently when they are needed. Also check the tread of your vehicle’s tires; balding tires can severely reduce traction on wet roadways. Use your hazard lights only when you have stopped on the road or at the side of the road.

Slow Down: You should drive considerably slower than you normally would, and slower than the speed limit. Wet roads are very dangerous. Your vehicle’s reaction time is much slower when it is raining. Also, accelerate and decelerate slowly. This will help you stay in control and avoid skids.

Turn on Headlights: Even if it is only misting, turning on your vehicle’s headlights will increase both your own visibility and other drivers’ ability to see your car on the road. Plus, California vehicle code requires drivers to use their headlights during inclement weather.

Keep Your Distance: Keep a greater distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you. Stopping your vehicle will be more difficult when driving in the rain. Maintain a distance of several car lengths between your car and other vehicles, to about five or six seconds between marks.

Avoid Heavy Braking: Try to slow your vehicle by taking your foot off the accelerator earlier than you normally would in preparation to slow down or stop.

Avoid Cruise Control: Don’t use cruise control so your attention on using both the gas and brake are in tune.

Watch for Puddles: Driving through standing water can cause hydroplaning, which is when you lose traction and skid across the surface of the road. To avoid hydroplaning, drive around places where water has collected by changing lanes or safely steering around such areas. If your car does hydroplane, calmly take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction that the front of your car needs to go. Avoid making sudden turns or slamming on your brakes.

Anticipate Other Hazards: Drivers may encounter fallen trees, downed power lines, flooded roadways, and other hazards. Deep water can hide many dangers you cannot see, and only a few inches of water can disable your vehicle and even carry it away. Never drive through deep water or around barricades indicating the road has been closed.

Don’t Drive Distracted: Electronic devices and cell phones should never be used while driving, but when driving in rainy weather your attention to your surroundings is your best defense against a hazard or collision. Watch out for brake lights in front of you.

Ventilate: Rain causes humidity levels to increase. You may find that your vehicle’s windows become foggy when you operate your vehicle while it is raining. Most cars’ ventilation systems include a function that will work to reduce this type of fog that develops on the interior of your windows and windshield. It may be necessary to pull over if you are no longer able to see through your windows.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney awarded MADD Southern California ‘Pursuit of Justice Award’

November 27, 2019 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner and attorney Matt Clark was the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice Award” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Southern California. Below is the press release announcing the award. 

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Two Bakersfield-based institutions received awards during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards Nov. 21 in Long Beach.

The “Pursuit of Justice Award” was given to attorney Matthew C. Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and the Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit (SJVBU) received the “Corporate Champion Award.” The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

The awards gala also kicks off the “Tie One On for Safety” campaign during the holiday season, which is MADD’s longest running and most visible public awareness project combating impaired driving. MADD’s mission is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.

“These two award recipients are community heroes who are dedicated to combating our area’s DUI epidemic,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Simply, they are saving lives.”

Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. Kern County is averaging nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States.

MADD Kern County hosts two local events, which are primarily volunteer-led. They include the Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognitions Awards luncheon and the “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash.” The Kern County chapter also hosts Victim Impact Panels to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and presents educational program at local schools, and more.

The award winners are helping combat Kern County’s DUI problem, raising awareness, and helping victims locally in a variety of ways.

  • Matt Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles: Clark is a founding board member and organizer for MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board and event planning committees, regularly speaks at local Victim Impact Panels intended to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and has done pro-bono legal work for victims of DUI crashes. He is a senior partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which annually serves as the presenting sponsor for the annual “Walk Like MADD” fundraising event. In addition, Jorge Barrientos, marketing director at the law firm, is also a past recipient of the “Volunteer of the Year” award for MADD California.
  • Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit (SJVBU): Chevron’s SJVBU, whose main office is in Bakersfield, has been an annual sponsor, and its employees are key organizers, in the local “Walk Like MADD” event, as well as MADD Kern County’s Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognitions Awards luncheon, which honors locals for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes. The company communicates to its employees – who log thousands of miles each year on Kern County roads – through safety campaigns, including DUI-education efforts.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of an impaired driver, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Study: Number of people killed by red light runners hits a 10-year high (and how to prevent crashes)

November 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


We all learned the rules as children: green light means go, yellow light means slow, and perhaps most importantly, red means stop. Unfortunately, adults seem to be forgetting that lesson.

The number of people killed by drivers running red lights has hit a 10-year high, according to a study by Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA). Nearly 1,000 people were killed in a year, according to the most recent statistics available — that’s a 30 percent increase from 10 years ago.

Almost half of the people killed in those crashes were passengers or drivers of other cars hit by a red-light runner. And just over one-third of the victims were the driver who ran the light, the AAA study found.

The reason for the uptick may surprise you. While distracted driving played a role, traffic lights that weren’t timed appropriately were also to blame. But perhaps most surprising? Many crashes are the result of drivers intentionally speeding and breaking the law by running red lights. About one in three drivers said they’d done it within the last 30 days, even when they could’ve safely stopped, AAA reported. The reason drivers ran a red light even though they knew it was against the law is equally as surprising. About 2 in 5 drivers don’t think police will pull them over for dangerous driving.

The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is urging drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to use caution at traffic signals.

“Like crashes cause by those driving under the influence, crashes caused red light runners are 100 percent preventable crimes,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Drivers who decide to run a red light are making a selfish and reckless choice that puts all of us on the roadways in danger.”

The good news is there are several things we can do to prevent red-light crashes. Continue reading this blog post to learn how.

 

RED LIGHT CAMERAS

Crashes caused by red light runners can be curbed with red light cameras, which take photos and a 12-second video of the driver when a car runs a red light.

In fact, such cameras reduced red light violations by 40% in a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those cameras take photos of vehicles that run red lights, which police can review for ticketing purposes. Running a red light will cost the offender $490, according to the Judicial Council of California, which sets fines for traffic offenses.

Locally, the Bakersfield Police Department reviews about 1,500 to 2,000 violations per month, according to The Bakersfield Californian. On average, 37 are cited each day. Red-light cameras are stationed at 10 Bakersfield intersections.

  • Bernard Street and Oswell Street
  • California Avenue and Oak Street
  • California Avenue / New Stine Road / Stockdale Highway
  • Chester Avenue and Brundage Lane
  • Coffee Road and Stockdale Highway
  • Coffee Road and Truxtun Avenue
  • Ming Avenue and Valley Plaza
  • Ming Avenue and Real Road
  • Ming Avenue and Old River Road
  • White Lane and Wible Road

These intersections with red light cameras saw collisions reduce by more than 80%, according to a recent Kern County Grand Jury report.

 

HOW TO AVOID RED LIGHT CRASHES

Besides putting in more red light cameras, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommends pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers do several things to avoid crashes at intersections.

Drivers

  • Drivers should monitor “stale” green lights — those that have been green a long time as you approach the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Prepare to stop. Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
  • Use good judgment. Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Tap the brake. Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
  • Drive defensively. Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists

  • Wait. Give yourself a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection.
  • Stay alert and listen. Don’t take chances. Watch what is going on and give your full attention to the environment around you.
  • Be visible. Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
  • Make eye contact. Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.
  • Never wear headphones or earbuds while commuting or talk on the phone.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of a red-light runner, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.