Statistics show women are more likely to be injured, die in motor vehicle crashes, and auto designs may be to blame

October 13, 2021 | 2:08 pm


10,000 women die in car crashes each year because of bad auto design.

That’s the headline from a new report published in Fast Company, which highlights the fact that women are 72% more likely to be injured, and 17% more likely to die in a car crash than men. The report also reveals that crash tests by government agencies are only performed using a male driver, and there is no mandated test that simulates a female driver.

In all, 10,420 women died from motor vehicle crashes in 2019, and over 1 million suffered injuries.

“None of this is surprising to car manufacturers or the government agency responsible for car safety standards, both of which have known these statistics for decades,” the author writes. “While bias plagues many of our nation’s institutions, perhaps none are as shocking as a government- and industry-sanctioned practice that protects men and kills or seriously injures the other 50% of the population. The government’s long-acknowledged negligence bears the responsibility, while women and their families carry the consequences.”

The report continues: “The sisterhood of vehicle-crash victims is farther reaching than we realized. Mothers and daughters are bonded not by stories and laughs, but by traumatic brain injuries, permanent scars, and moments of horror sealed into memory.”

 

TESTING & DESIGN

The National Highway Safety Transportation Association (NHSTA) is the nation’s safety rating agency, which rates every manufactured car in our country. The agency recreates impacts of frontal, rollover, side, and side pole crashes.

But according to the Fast Company’s report, for tests with women in the passenger seat, the dummy used to represent women is a scaled down male model that lacks anything else that distinguishes between sexes, including bone densities, muscle structures, and abdominal and chest differences. Perhaps this is the reason women are 22% more likely to suffer a head injury than men, and while reducing 70% of whiplash in men. For women, the seatbelts and airbags that protect men can actually cause additional injury, leaving women with “permanent scars from the seatbelts we were raised to believe would save our lives, but which also nearly ended them.”

Among other reasons women are at a greater risk to suffer injuries and deaths, according to the author:

  • Men tend to drive smaller, lighter vehicles, while men gravitate toward bigger cars and trucks.
  • Heavy vehicles are also a greater threat to pedestrians than small cars, and pedestrians are more likely to be women or people of color.
  • Women are often excluded from critical design decisions. The people sitting around the table in most transportation, engineering, and automotive conversations are usually men.

 

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

To start, the country’s INVEST in America Act would require updated, equitable dummy crash testing. The Senate version of this same infrastructure bill does not include this, however. In addition, more women should be included in production design, experts agree.

“This is the moment to make this historic and needed change in vehicle safety,” the author writes. “We will no longer be ignored, left out, and endangered. It is time for our government to stand up for the most vulnerable.”

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raises $57,000 to fight impaired driving in Kern County

September 29, 2021 | 11:28 am


Hundreds of crash victims, family members and friends, law enforcement officers and first responders, community leaders, and supporters came together Sept. 25 at the Park at River Walk to walk, run, and call for an end to impaired driving crashes in Kern County.

In the process, the eighth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raised more than $57,000 for local educational programs and prevention services, and to support local crash victims. The event was help in-person this year after a virtual ceremony last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even during the pandemic, impaired driving crashes continue to tear apart the lives of local residents at record rates in our community,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Kern County came together Saturday with three goals in mind: to remember victims, to inspire change, and to commit to a future of ‘No More Victims’.”

Our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – 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. And during this pandemic, fatal crash rates have spiked, with speeding, lower seatbelt use, and impaired driving to blame.

At the state level, the “MADD Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving” calls for high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks or in-car breathalyzers for all convicted drunk drivers, and support for the development of advanced technology.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash featured an opening ceremony with statements from representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims of DUI crashes, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, Assemblyman Vince Fong, and others. It was followed by a kid’s fun run presented by Capital Dental Group, a timed 5K run, and a march by victims, their families and supporters from our community.

Medals and trophies were awarded to the fastest runners in their respective age categories, and as well to top fundraisers. They were:

  • Top Friends and Family Team: Punjabi Golf Association of Bakersfield
  • Top Individual Fundraiser: RoseMary Wahl
  • Law Enforcement Challenge: Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Corporate Challenge: Valley Strong Credit Union
  • Overall 5K Winners: Emma Mann and Troy Guess

Presented by the local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the event was also supported this year by Chevron, Valley Strong Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., Helping HART (Hit-and-Run Tragedies), STEPS Inc., and others. Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising nearly $500,000 for MADD Kern County.

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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 and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.
  • Matt Clark received the “Pursuit of Justice Award” during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards. 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.

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

Local family hoping to spare others the heartache of fatal hit-and-run crashes, help victims and law enforcement

September 15, 2021 | 9:20 am


In the shadow of a hit-and-run tragedy, one local family is hoping to spare others the same grief they felt while helping victims, supporting law enforcement, and honoring their own loved one.

Dawn Elliott knows firsthand what it’s like to lose someone to a hit-and-run crash — her mother Deborah Ann Geneau was killed last year in Bakersfield. And she doesn’t want to see anyone one else to be affected. She and her husband started Helping HART (Hit-and-Run Tragedies), which aims to raise awareness of these crimes, help hit-and-run victims and their families, and help fund law enforcement by providing much-needed resources.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support the cause by sponsoring  this nonprofit organization. The law firm also represents the family of Geneau, as well as other local hit-and-run victims, and knows too well the devastation caused by hit-and-run drivers.

 

THE CRASH

Stephanie Heninger was arrested and pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and hit-and-run charges connected to the July 22 crash near CSU Bakersfield. The family of Deborah Geneau and Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles had offered a reward to $7,500 for the person who helped identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that was suspected of causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive.

Police learned through GPS location data that Heninger had been at the scene of the crash, according to a probable cause declaration reported by KGET-17. Police also obtained a statement from Heninger confirming she was the driver who left the scene, according to reports. The vehicle in the incident was seized in Riverside County, Bakersfield Police reported. While police received several tips, police investigations ultimately led to the arrest. The court case is ongoing.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed lawsuits on behalf of the Geneau family against two other driver’s involved in the fatal crash. Both of those drivers were also speeding 10-15 mph above the 55 mph speed limit at the time of the collision, according to police.

At a press conference in July 2020 at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Debbie’s husband Rick Geneau and their daughter Dawn shared about their loss, and pleaded with the driver who caused the collision to turn him or herself in. Rick met Debbie met when they were both 14 years old. At the time of Debbie’s death, they had had been married for 45 years. Dawn Elliott told media she feels she’s had to take on her mother’s role and be the strength of the family during this time.

“You’ve not only taken my mom’s life, you’ve taken a piece of all of our lives.”

 

HELPING HART

Dawn and her husband Joe Elliott Jr. founded the nonprofit Helping HART just one year after the crash to honor mother and grandmother Deborah Geneau. And they’re not alone.

In 2019, the United States saw more than 2,000 fatalities due to hit-and-run crashes, according to national statistics provided on the Helping HART website.

“That means 2,005 people have been ripped away from the people who loved them,” the website states. “That is 2,005 men, women, grandparents, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends stolen away in a senseless act of cowardice.”

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an average of one hit-and-run accident happens in the United States every minute.

“Everyone knows accidents happen, but people should not run from their mistakes by leaving the scene having no regard for doing the right thing,” according to Helping HART.

The nonprofit will offer assistance through home remodels or vehicle modifications to anyone who has developed handicaps as a result of hit-and-run crashes, and offer scholarships to children who lost a parent to a hit-and-run, Dawn Elliott told KGET-17 News.

“I will be able to continue doing things in memory of my mom,” Dawn told KGET. “Therefore, my mom is still with me. Helping me. Really neat that I get to work with my mom for the rest of my life.”

Anyone interested in supporting Helping HART can make a donation by visiting helpinghart.org or by emailing [email protected].

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney selected to 2021 Bakersfield Life Magazine’s “20 Under 40 People to Watch”

September 1, 2021 | 5:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Tanya D. Alsheikh has been selected as one of the 2021 “20 Under 40 People to Watch” in Bakersfield Life Magazine.

The magazine’s annual “20 Under 40 People to Watch” highlights outstanding young men and women whom Bakersfield can be proud of, who possess a hard work ethic, dedication, and a passion for volunteering.

“Bakersfield has always had an electric group of talent, from artists and musicians to lawyers and entrepreneurs. This year’s 20 Under 40 selections are no different,” the magazine stated in its introduction. “In this 2021 issue, we also celebrate the eighth year of recognizing 20 individuals who are rising stars in their professions and leaders in their places of business, as well as in the community. … (W)e are grateful to the class of 2021 — all their hard work and what they bring to the table.”

Alsheikh joined the law firm 5 years ago and focuses on accident, injury, and elder abuse cases. She was raised in Bakersfield and received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount, and her Juris Doctorate from University of San Diego School of Law. Tanya is involved in various activities at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Bakersfield. You can find her, for example, serving food at the annual Greek Food Festival, which benefits church and other community projects. She is also an Executive Board Member of the Bakersfield Christian High School Alumni Association. She is fluent in Arabic.

In the magazine’s editor’s note, Editor Shelby Parker writes: “Our 20 Under 40 selections have exemplary resumes and are making a difference in our community with their hearts and souls. They are leaders, business owners, givers, and change-makers … Those featured in this issue remind all of us, no matter what age you might be, no matter what you might have going on, that you can still go after your dreams and pursue your passions for what you really want in life.”

Alsheikh’s inclusion on the list now makes six people at the law firm who have been selected for this honor. And of the seven lawyers in the law firm, four of them have been selected. The six are:

The following profile was published in Bakersfield Life Magazine as part of the recognition

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Name: Tanya Alsheikh

Age: 30

Occupation/Business: Attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

Hometown: Bakersfield

Tell us how you got into your field. Since I was pretty young — I’d say 10 years old or so, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer. When I was a freshman at Bakersfield Christian High School, I joined the debate team and automatically felt driven to learn how to properly research arguments and persuasively present them. I never really escaped that drive and I only became more passionate about my dream of becoming an attorney (despite my mom’s best efforts to convince me to become a doctor instead). I attended Loyola Marymount University, where I graduated a year early just so I could take that year to work at a law firm and verify that was the job environment I was looking for. After that year, I went straight to law school and never looked back or regretted it for one moment.

What is your “why?” (Why do you get out of bed every morning and do what you do?) It is extremely rewarding to wake up, walk into work, and know that I am really “standing up for the little guy.” I work on both personal injury and elder abuse/neglect cases. As one can reasonably expect, when someone is involved in an accident they become overwhelmed by all the paperwork the insurance companies start sending them and forget what is most important: getting better.

When I get involved in a case, I take away that element of stress associated with dealing with an insurance company. Insurance companies handle these claims daily and sometimes forget that there is an injured human being on the other end of the case and take advantage of that person. We allow the injured person to focus on his or her care and treatment, while we deal with the insurance company.

With respect to the elder abuse/neglect cases, we are representing elders or dependent adults who were entrusted into the care of nursing homes that took advantage of these people by receiving payment for services that were promised, but never provided. Sometimes, those failures end up resulting in very serious injuries, painful conditions requiring hospitalization, or death. We give a voice to a vulnerable population that can’t stand up for themselves. Honestly, when I’m describing the work we do, “rewarding” seems like such a small word.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Never lose track of your goals, but remember to be flexible. Face the challenges that come along the way head-on even if it leads you down a path you never expected to go.

What is the biggest challenge in the marketplace/business that you’ve overcome? I actually think this is a big obstacle all young attorneys face: being taken seriously as an attorney. When people think of lawyers, they usually think of someone who has the white hair to prove their level of knowledge and experience, but all those attorneys started out like me and there is no shame in being a young attorney. It was a matter of me making the conscious choice to feel comfortable and proud of the fact that I became an attorney at 25 years old, instead of trying to avoid the subject altogether.

What is your proudest achievement of your career thus far?

This is a tough one because it is hard to pinpoint just one specific instance.

Something I did not expect when I was starting my career is that the law is not always clear and sometimes the courts have not had any reason or opportunity to interpret that law. When you run into that situation, you feel like you’ve reached a total dead-end, but giving up is not an option. Every time I’m able to push through that feeling and find an answer or craft an argument despite the lack of case law is a time I feel accomplished.

What’s next for you in your career?

Continue to learn and grow. Regardless of your status as an associate or a partner, there is always something new to learn and I plan to push myself to the fullest extent to become as knowledgeable as I can to better serve my clients and community.

What advice would you give to other young professionals and entrepreneurs in Bakersfield? 

Don’t get discouraged or feel like you’re not successful because you ended up in a city like Bakersfield and not Los Angeles or New York. It is a lot easier to find opportunities for growth and the ability to have a real work-life balance in a place like Bakersfield than if you were in one of those big cities where you’re competing with thousands of people and your entire paycheck goes to your cost of living.

How do you hope to help improve Bakersfield, or bring to the community overall? 

I feel like Bakersfield really gets an undeserved reputation of being a terrible place to live, but in all reality, it has so much to offer that gets overlooked — whether it’s the cost of living or that small-town feel despite being a rather large city. I’m so happy to call it home. I am always on the lookout to give back to a city that has been my home for nearly 75 percent of my life. I love to get involved with organizations or groups that are looking to improve the city and provide a tangible reason for people to change their perception of the city. For instance, I was involved with The Innovation Lab, which is part of The Hub of Bakersfield — a team of individuals who work together to contribute to the betterment of downtown Bakersfield to make it a more desirable place to live and enjoy. Groups and organizations like that see the value that I do and what to share that with the community.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting your career? Loan forgiveness counts as income! (haha) and deadlines are everything and procrastination is not an option.

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

Longtime Bakersfield attorney, former Chain | Cohn | Stiles partner dies at 84

July 14, 2021 | 10:15 am


Editor’s Note: The article below was compiled from local media reports. For a column on Mr. Lemucchi written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn for the Kern County Bar Association magazine, Res Ipsa Loquitur, please see below:

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Timothy Lemucchi, a longtime and prominent Bakersfield lawyer and former partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles has died at age 84.

Lemucchi participated in some of Bakersfield’s most memorable trials, including that of tire store owner William Robert Tyack, accused of killing two of his neighbors in 1982, and Offord Rollins, the Wasco star athlete accused of killing his girlfriend in 1991. He would be involved in more than 250 jury trials.

Colleagues, including Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn, say he had an uncanny ability to read jurors and keep his cool amid difficult circumstances. Cohn worked with Lemucchi for 20 years when the firm was known as Chain Younger Lemucchi.

Lemucchi exemplified the value of diligent pre-trial preparation, Cohn told local media, and he often tutored younger lawyers after completing his own work for the day. Part of what made him such a good defense and later a personal injury lawyer was his ability to shift tactics seamlessly after being overruled by a judge, Cohn said.

Lemuccci was the son of Italian immigrants who established the iconic Old Kern staple, Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, Deli & Wine, which celebrated 100 years of business in 2010. He attended East High School, Stanford University, and then Georgetown University for his law degree.

Outside of the courtroom, Lemucchi was a competitive athlete. He regularly competed in Ironman triatholons, took cross-country skiing, hiking and fishing trips, climbed Alaska’s Denali, Mount Whitney and peaks in Russia. He survived a helicopter crash, and mounted part of the wreckage on a plaque in his office, The Bakersfield Californian reported. He also displayed a photo of himself carrying the Olympic torch ahead of the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

His competitive spirt took him on the campaign trail in 1972, when he ran for Congress.

Lemucchi was also a writer, authoring books about his family’s history. The latest, “Eddies of the Kern,” is scheduled for release Sept. 1 of this year.

Lemucchi was also a longtime supporter of the Bakersfield Museum of Art. Lemucchi was “a very giving person,” Cohn shared with local media. “Tim was involved in a lot of charities here in Kern County. He always cared about the little guy.”

Lemucchi died July 7 while out on a casual bike ride with a friend, local media reported. He is survived by Margaret, his wife of 51 years; his daughter, Lisa Lemucchi, of Santa Cruz; his sister, Antonia Valpredo; niece Monica Sacco (husband John); niece Lanette Caratan (Christopher); nephew Gino Valpredo (Sandra); and numerous cousins and relatives, many of whom live in Kern County.

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‘Universally respected’: Longtime colleague David Cohn shares his memories of Tim Lemucchi

By David K. Cohn

For the “Res Ipsa Loquitur”

When Tim Lemucchi was a partner at the Chain Younger law firm, several of us attorneys challenged him. Daniel Rodriguez, James Yoro, and I bet we could beat him in the triathlon. I would do the bicycle portion, Danny would run, and Jim would swim. Tim – a tough, skilled, and experienced competitor – would, of course, do all three by himself. We trained a lot for the challenge, but we just weren’t as prepared as Tim was. In the end, we each ended up owing him $100 – which he gladly, but graciously, took. 

That was Tim. He outworked his opponents and was extremely well prepared. And though we lost, we couldn’t be upset with Tim because he was universally respected – by judges, other defense attorneys, and even his opponents.  

It was my privilege to be a legal partner of Tim’s for 20 years. During that time, I came to learn that Tim was trial lawyers, trial lawyer. 

His word was his bond. He never tried to pull a fast one. Tim was probably the most decent attorney I’ve ever met. I never really saw him lose his temper, and he always was cool under fire. His staff was also extremely loyal – he was a good boss and they respected him. He was the epitome of how to be civil

For a young lawyer, he was a great mentor.  I think I had been practicing for about 6 weeks, and Tim handed me a criminal file. He said, “Here, I think this would be a good experience for you to try a jury trial.” And I did! He gave me pointers and helped me out along the way. It wasn’t long after that I stumbled on a murder case. I went to Tim and said, “I’m not sure how to go about this.” He sat with me in court at a preliminary hearing, and he made some great suggestions, including for cross examining one of the police officers. I ended up getting the case dismissed at the preliminary hearing, mainly due to suggestions that Tim gave me. That was pretty cool for a young lawyer. 

It’s no wonder he was retained to represent Robert Tyack in the infamous double murder case. Tim used a self-defense argument even though the two men were shot in the back. While he didn’t get an acquittal, he ended up convincing a jury not to convict his client of murder. Instead, the jury came back with a verdict of manslaughter. The judge was astounded at the verdict, and how well Tim did in front of a jury. That was Tim’s biggest asset. He really knew how to connect with people, and was wonderful in front of juries. Tim’s low-key demeanor just resonated. He had that common person touch. 

In another famous case, Tim was hired for the Offord Rollins case. Rollins was a star athlete in Wasco accused of murdering his girlfriend. He did not win the case, but he gained a tremendous amount of respect throughout our community for his work in that trial. 

He knew the ins and outs of the evidence code better than any other attorney I’ve known.  

He was as close to a Renaissance man as they come. Not only was he an athlete and lawyer, but he was also an amazing writer, an outdoorsman who hiked, climbed the highest mountains, and survived helicopter crashes and snowstorms. 

As much as I was saddened to hear about Tim’s passing, I had a smile on my face knowing he was out on his bicycle, doing what he loved, riding through Hart Park at 84 years old. 

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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.

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Arrest Made In Fatal Hit-And-Run Crash Following 9-Month Investigation, Chain | Cohn | Stiles Reward Offer

May 12, 2021 | 5:00 am


A 42-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of causing the fatal hit-and-run crash last year that killed 65-year-old Deborah Ann Geneau, a case in which Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the Geneau family offered a reward.

Stephanie Heninger was arrested and pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and hit-and-run charges connected to the July 22 crash near CSU Bakersfield. The family of Deborah Geneau and Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles had offered a reward to $7,500 for the person who helped identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that was suspected of causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive. That vehicle turned into the bike path parking area across from CSUB immediately after the collision, police said. It had driver’s side damage.

Police learned through GPS location data that Heninger had been at the scene of the crash, according to a probable cause declaration reported by KGET-17. Police also obtained a statement from Heninger confirming she was the driver who left the scene, according to reports.

The vehicle in the incident was seized in Riverside County, Bakersfield Police reported. While police received several tips, police investigations ultimately led to the arrest. The court case is ongoing.

“On behalf of the Geneau family, I want to extend their sincerest thank you to Bakersfield Police Department, and especially Officer Chad Ott,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyer Matt Clark, the Geneau family’s attorney. “It is a direct result of Officer Ott’s persistence and tenaciousness that a suspect has been brought to justice.”

After Bakersfield Police Department completed its report into the crash, which was 165-pages long, officers recommended felony charges against the driver, including hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter, and unsafe lane change. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed lawsuits on behalf of the Geneau family against two other driver’s involved in the fatal crash. Both of those drivers were also speeding 10-15 mph above the 55 mph speed limit at the time of the collision, according to police.

Bakersfield Police Department released a video of surveillance camera angles. The angles included traffic cameras and footage from a Golden Empire Transportation bus that was in the vicinity of the crash.

At a previous press conference in July 2020 at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, husband Rick Geneau, husband of Debbie, and their daughter Dawn, shared about their loss, and pleaded with the driver who caused the collision to turn him or herself in. Rick met Debbie met when they were both 14 years old. At the time of Debbie’s death, they had had been married for 45 years.

Dawn Elliott told media she feels she’s had to take on her mother’s role and be the strength of the family during this time.

“You’ve not only taken my mom’s life, you’ve taken a piece of all of our lives.”

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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.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles Selected in 2021 ‘Best of Kern County’ Poll (Best Lawyer / Best Law Firm / Best Business)

April 28, 2021 | 5:00 am


As we all experienced, the past year was incredibly tough, especially for local businesses.

Still, Chain | Cohn | Stiles remained open during the pandemic as local residents in Kern County still needed legal help. This included current clients with active cases at the law firm, as well as those who suffered injuries in accidents and were new to hiring our law firm.

Those circumstances make this year’s “Best of Kern County” Readers’ Choice Poll results in Bakersfield Life Magazine extra special, as Chain | Cohn | Stiles was chosen in in the top three in these categories:

  • Best Law Firm
  • Best Lawyer (David Cohn)
  • Best Medium-Large Business

This is the ninth year in a row that the law firm has been selected into the “Best Law Firm” category, each year since the category was introduced. Attorney David Cohn has been selected into the category multiple times. This is the first year the poll has made available “Best Medium-Large Business” as category.

“The annual Best of Readers’ Choice Poll showcases the best of the best — from food and shopping to entertainment and services — as decided by those who call Bakersfield home,” editors of Bakersfield Life Magazine said. “Even though 2020 saw many changes locally and the pandemic impacted all types of businesses, readers still showed up to honor their favorites around town.”

Law firm managing partner David Cohn added: “We are committed to helping our injured neighbors day in and day out, no matter what is going on in our world. We are incredibly grateful, and will continue to work on behalf of the amazing people of Kern County.”

For more than 25 years, The Bakersfield Californian has conducted the Best of Readers’ Choice Poll to showcase the people, places and things that make Kern County truly unique. In 2019, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was inducted in the inaugural “Best of Kern County Hall of Fame,” awarded to honorees with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community.

See the full 2021 results, and the full issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine in the links at the bottom of this article.

Nationally, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was selected for inclusion in the 2020 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report. Law firms included in “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers,” according to U.S. News & World Report. Achieving a ranking “signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is an established and highly regarded personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm based in downtown Bakersfield since 1934, and today focuses on advocating for injured clients in the Central Valley and throughout California. Over the years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has obtained more multi-million dollar awards and settlements than any other law firm in Kern County. It’s also the oldest personal injury law firm in the area, and dedicated to giving back to its community in various ways. In all, the law firm has received more than half a billion dollars in the firm’s history on behalf of clients.

The law firm includes attorneys David Cohn, Jim Yoro, Matt ClarkChad BoylesBeatriz TrejoTanya Alsheikh, and Doug Fitz-Simmons. To learn more about each attorney, visit chainlaw.com.

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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.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit in the choking death of 21-year-old at local for-profit care facility

March 31, 2021 | 8:44 am


Ryan Kowal, 21, had severe autism and required one-on-one care “at all times” when he was placed in the care of SAILS Westbrook Crisis Home in Bakersfield. That care was most important during meal times, as Ryan required a soft food-only diet due to his risk for choking.

Supervisors at SAILS Westbrook Crisis Home, a vendor of Kern County Regional Center and Golden Gate Regional Center, signed care plans confirming such knowledge. So, it was alarming to the Kowal family when Ryan choked while eating a corn dog, causing Ryan to lose consciousness and go into cardiac arrest. He had to be revived by emergency personnel, and spent days in the hospital recovering.

But it was a preventable tragedy when, 7 months later on Jan. 23, Ryan was left alone again with easy access to food that posed a choking hazard. While Ryan was left alone with no supervision, he accessed what is believed to be crackers, ate a large amount of the crackers, choked and died.

The Kowal family, along with attorney Matt Clark at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, say this is a warning to families of special-needs children and adults everywhere to beware of for-profit care facilities who sacrifice appropriate support and care, which they are contractually obligated to provide, to increase profit margins.

“SAILS Westbrook knew Ryan’s needs and care requirements, accepted him as a resident in its home, being paid by taxpayers to provide him the appropriate supervision and provide for his needs,” states the lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the Kowal family. “A lack of oversight from both regional centers, and SAILS Westbrook’s desire for profit, caused Ryan’s tragic death.”

Ryan’s parents Treena and John Kowal, along with their attorney Matt Clark, spoke with local media to discuss Ryan’s tragic death, their wrongful death lawsuit, and the state of for-profit care facilities. To see the media interviews and coverage, click the links at the listing below.

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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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolves several cases involving misconduct at North High School

March 9, 2021 | 3:29 pm


Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has resolved four cases on behalf of students at North High School who were victims of sexual misconduct by an athletic equipment manager at the school.

The cases settled for a total of nearly $2 million.

Kern County Sheriff’s Office had 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. He was sentenced to time served after pleading no contest to a charge of committing a lewd or lascivious act with a 14 or 15 year old, and ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, according to media reports.

Rodriguez resigned from North High in 2018 after a student reported receiving sexually explicit messages from him through social media. A school administrator notified the sheriff’s office, which determined Rodriguez sent inappropriate messages through Snapchat to at least eight juvenile students, and had sexual contact with several of them.

According to the victims, Rodriguez would give students sodas and candy, befriend them on the social media, and send them sexually explicit photos and videos, among other sexual misconduct that took place over several years. One of the women shared that the abuse first occurred when she was a sophomore in high school.

In one instance, Rodriguez sent a photo on Snapchat to two of the girls that showed him wearing shorts and a tank top and grabbing his penis. A number of text messages sent by Rodriguez to the girls told them he thought they were “hot” or commented on various parts of their body he found attractive.

Rodriguez “groomed” the victims, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney David Cohn, who represented the victims and their families, told local media. To see full media coverage of the lawsuits and criminal cases of Rodriguez, please see the links below.

The mother of one of the victims has also spoken out.

“This sick man manipulated my daughter. She and I are very close, but she felt she was doing something wrong and was afraid to tell me about it,” said the mother of one of the victims in a statement. “My hope through this lawsuit is to prevent this from happening in the future, and to protect our students through better accountability and scrutiny of school officials.”

“I think all the markers were out there,” Cohn told KGET-17.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and the parents of the victims advise other parents to talk to their children about boundaries with those authority.

“Take this opportunity to have a discussion with your teenager,” Cohn said. “Students should never have one-on-one conversations through social media or text messages with school personnel, coaches, or other adults in authority. And encourage them to speak up if someone in authority contacts them privately or crosses a line.”

 

OTHER MISCONDUCT CASES

Chain | Cohn | Stiles also resolved several lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual assault by a Kern County Juvenile Corrections officer while they were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall. Settlements of $200,000, $250,000, and $400,000 were reached with the County of Kern on behalf of the victims, respectively. The final settlement was reached recently after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the victim, a Chain | Cohn | Stiles plaintiff, who had alleged that in 2015 corrections officer George Anderson made sexual comments to her, groomed her for sexual abuse, propositioned her for sex and watched her shower. The appeals court found that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California erred in its 2016 decision and reversed it.

In another case, a former McFarland High School basketball coach pleaded no contest to contacting a teenager to commit a sex act. Fernando Pruneda faces two years in prison and sex offender registration after pleading no contest to the felony. Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which represents the teenager and family, said the civil matter can proceed now that the criminal case has been resolved. “Fernando Pruneda attempted to sell a position on the varsity basketball team in exchange for sex, and this disgusting and abhorrent conduct deserved to be charged as a felony,” Clark said in media reports. “We congratulate the Kern County District Attorney’s Office for their perseverance in securing this plea deal. This case is an example of how sexual predators groom their young prey, and that high school personnel, if it were paying attention, would have been aware of this conduct.” According to court documents, Pruneda tried to get sexual favors from a junior varsity basketball player. The boy told detectives Pruneda massaged him — as well as other players — below the waist. When the boy resisted or told Pruneda to stop, the coach told him “you won’t get varsity,” according to the documents. The boy also told investigators Pruneda forced him to sleep in the same bed with him during away tournaments. When deputies questioned Pruneda about inappropriate text messages he sent the boy, Pruneda told them he was just joking around. Pruneda coached boys’ basketball for 15 years and helped coach baseball.

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What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case

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

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

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

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SETTLEMENT MEDIA COVERAGE

CLAIM FILING MEDIA COVERAGE

CRIMINAL CASE MEDIA COVERAGE

Family of fatal New Year’s Eve crash victim, Chain | Cohn | Stiles speak about dangers of impaired driving

February 23, 2021 | 4:04 pm


The year 2020 is a year many of us are glad is in the past, but for the families of three young people who died in a New Year’s Eve crash, they would give anything to go back in time. And one of those local families is hoping their kind of loss is the last in our community.

The family of Andrew Ortiz – mother Sasha McKeen, stepfather Steven McKeen, and father Michael Ortiz – recently spoke with Jeff Platt at KBAK-29 Eyewitness News about the crash, their son, and the dangers of driving under the influence and unbuckled. They were joined also by Matt Clark, accident and injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Adam Teasdale, 21, was charged with three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of DUI causing bodily injury for the crash at Brimhall Road and Jewetta Avenue in northwest Bakersfield that killed Timothy Michael Wilson, Devin Lee Atha and Andrew Nicholas Ortiz, all 20. A fourth passenger suffered minor injuries.

Police said they believe Teasdale was driving about 60 mph when he swerved and lost control. The car went onto the raised concrete median and slammed into a tree, according to reports. The three people in the back were thrown through the window.

Police found “whip-it” canisters of nitrous oxide — which provide a brief high by inhaling the gas — and a bottle of consumed Fireball Whiskey at the crash scene, according to the media reports. A nitrous oxide canister was also found in one of Teasdale’s pockets.

“I just killed my friends,” he said, according to a witness who lives near where the crash. “Why did I swerve.”

Teasdale refused to take any field sobriety tests at the scene, according to media reports, and would only consent to a blood draw if he was arrested. One officer stated that Teasdale “displayed sings of being under the influence of alcohol.” He also said the devil was inside him.

Teasdale is being held on $1 million bail and is due in court March 26. He has pleaded not guilty.

“You may be lucky 99 times out of 100, but that last time your luck may run out,” Michael Ortiz, father of Andrew Ortiz, said in a statement. “I’m heartbroken by this tragedy. I hope someone will learn from it, and make a good decision to not drive impaired.”

Following the fatal crash, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County also shared with media other dangers and consequences of impaired driving, including hefty fines, court costs, attorney’s fees and suspension of a license. It’s much cheaper, and safer, to call an Uber or Lyft for a ride home.

“No one has to get behind the wheel if they have been drinking or impaired by drugs, it is that simple,” said Michael Yraceburn, board member for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – 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.

“We suffer a lot here in Kern County, Bakersfield area from the tragic loss of impaired driving,” Yraceburn said. “Protect yourself and protect those that you love.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions, including receiving a “Community Champion” award and “Pursuit of Justice” award, among others.

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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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE