Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark discusses COVID-19 outbreak at local skilled nursing facility, and how to protect loved ones

May 6, 2020 | 10:05 am


A local skilled nursing facility is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak affecting staff and residents alike, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles spoke with media on what people can do to protect their loved ones.

Kingston Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing facility in southwest Bakersfield, has reported 70 positive cases of the novel coronavirus as of May 5, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. The Kern County Department of Public Health said the facility requested immediate help with staffing shortages, and healthcare professionals throughout the state were sent to assist the facility.

UPDATE: Kern County Public Health officials stated on May 11 that 60% of Kern County’s COVID-19 related deaths are from Kingston Healthcare Center.

The nursing home in a statement to media said they are working with health officials to manage confirmed cases. The facility said they’ve increased their housekeeping services and currently have appropriate personal protective equipment for staff.

“California Department of Public Health is on-site daily at the center and working together with center staff to ensure infection control process are being followed and assisting with some staffing needs,” according to the statement

Matthew Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles elder abuse and elder neglect attorney and senior partner, shared with 23ABC News that families with loved ones in the Kingston facility have reached out to the law firm about the quality of care since the COVID pandemic. He says over the last three years his firm has had around a half dozen cases against the facility.

“… Any case we’ve had against Kingston or any other elder care facility for that matter, it almost results from inadequate staffing. It’s an inadequate amount of staffing that leads to poor patient care. Poor patient care leads to poor patient outcomes. Poor patient outcomes especially in the elder care world often times leads to death,” Clark said in an interview with 23ABC.

23ABC reported in April that documents showed the California Department of Public Health cited the Kingston Health Care Facility more than 14 separate times since 2015. Within the last six months they were also cited with a Double-A citation, which is considered one of the most serious violations.

KGET-17 News also reported that Kingston has been sued six times since 2017, with allegations including medical malpractice, elder abuse and neglect and wrongful death. Many of those cases have been filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Clark shared with viewers that the best way for people to review nursing home conduct and reports is my visiting Medicare.gov. Users can research any skilled nursing facility, and check ratings and staffing ratios.

Kingston’s profile is now listed as a “Special Focus Facility.” According to the site this means the nursing home has had a history of persistent poor quality of care.

As of May 5, Kern County is reporting 1,055 positive cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths, according to Kern County Public Health Services Department.

UPDATE: Families of residents at Kingston\, as well as staff members, are speaking out about conditions at the skilled nursing facility, and seeking justice. A certified nursing assistant said they were not given PPE equipment until about a “two weeks ago,” and were working 16-hour shifts.

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

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

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles selected into ‘Best Law Firm’ category in 2020 Best of Kern County poll

April 29, 2020 | 6:00 am


Each year, Kern County nominates, votes on, and chooses the best restaurants, shops, services and people in our community through The Bakersfield Californian‘s “Best of Kern County” Readers’ Choice Poll. And each year since the category was introduced, Kern County selects Chain | Cohn | Stiles into the “Best Law Firm” category.

This year is no different.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been selected into the “Best Law Firm” category as a “favorite” in the 2020 “Best of Kern County” poll, with results announced in the May issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine.⁣ ⁣

“Thank you Kern County for voting Chain | Cohn | Stiles into the ‘Best Law Firm’ category yet again,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner and personal injury attorney with the law firm. “We remain committed to helping our injured neighbors day in and day out, and helping them move forward with their lives after their traumatic experiences. While helping put the pieces of their lives back together is reward enough, this recognition is truly icing on the cake.”

This is the eighth year in a row that the law firm has been selected into the “Best Law Firm” category. 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. This year the listings contained 98 winners and 196 favorites.

You can see the complete poll results online here, or in the magazine version here. And you can find our Best of Kern County awards displayed proudly in our law firm lobby in downtown Bakersfield.

Besides the 2020 “Best of Kern County” results, Bakersfield Life Magazine also unveiled the latest additions to the “Best of Kern County Hall of Fame,” awarded to men, women, businesses, and organizations with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community. Chain | Cohn | Stiles was one of three inductees in the inaugural Hall of Fame class last year (joining the law firm was Urner’s, a local furniture store celebrating 100 years this year, and Jim Burke Ford, a local Ford dealership and one of the largest such dealerships in the country). This year’s class included Dewar’s Candy Shop, Luigi’s Restaurant, and Dignity Health

Similarly, earlier this year 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.” A law firm must have at least one attorney who has received high enough peer reviews to be recognized in the current “Best Lawyers in America” program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has two attorneys selected as “Best Lawyers.” David K. Cohn, managing partner at the law firm, was selected into the personal injury litigation category of Best Lawyers in America, while James A. Yoro, senior partner at the firm, was selected into the workers’ compensation law listings. They join the top 5 percent of practicing attorneys in the United States in being selected.

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. 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 Clark, Chad Boyles, Beatriz Trejo, Tanya 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.

Dog bite prevention during the pandemic, and beyond

April 15, 2020 | 10:09 am


With more people taking walks around their neighborhoods and exercising outdoors to take a break from stay-at-home life during the conoravirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be aware of potential dangers while outside.

And that includes dangerous dogs or other animals roaming our streets.

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, aimed to help educate the public and reduce the 4.5 million dog bites per year, most of them against children and a vast majority preventable. More than 800,000 people each year receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“Any dog can bite: big or small, young or old,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Even the sweetest pet can bite under certain circumstances. Let’s make sure we all do our part to respect pets, and they will respect us.”

 

HOW TO PREVENT DOG BITES

Most dog bites are preventable, and there are many things we can do at home and within our neighborhoods to help prevent them. But first, it’s important to know that dogs bite for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To defend itself or its territory.
  • Because they are scared or have been startled.
  • Because they feel threatened. T
  • To protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, food, or a toy.
  • Because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone.
  • During play. Avoid wrestling or playing tug-of-war with your dog. These types of activities can make your dog overly excited, which may lead to a nip or a bite.

So, what can we do to prevent dog bites?

First, socializing your pet helps your dog feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to use a leash in public to make sure that you are able to control your dog.

Second, educate yourself and your children about how to approach a dog.

Third, it’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:

  • If the dog is not with its owner
  • If the dog is with its owner, but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
  • If the dog is on the other side of a fence—​don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
  • If a dog is sleeping or eating
  • If a dog is sick or injured
  • If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
  • If a dog is playing with a toy
  • If a dog is growling or barking
  • If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone

Lastly, reading a dog’s body language also can be helpful. Just like people, dogs rely on body gestures, postures and vocalizations to express themselves and communicate. Dogs can give us helpful clues as to whether a dog is feeling stressed, frightened, or threatened.

Note: This year’s pandemic has brought on a new element. The U.S. Postal Service reported that with more children at home during school closures, incidents of dog attacks on postal carriers have a tendency to increase. When kids rush out the door to see a mail, a household dog often follows behind, leaving the carrier vulnerable to a dog attack. Pet owners, the service reported, are asked to wait for the carrier to leave before opening the door to get their mail or package. Dogs can slip between an owner’s legs while the door is open and attacking the carrier. The service recommends restraining dogs as mail carriers make personal deliveries.

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE BITTEN

If you are bitten by a dog, here is a checklist of things you should do:

  • If the dog’s owner is present, request proof of rabies vaccination, and get the owner’s name and contact information.
  • Clean the bite wound with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Consult your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if it’s after office hours.
  • Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.

And if your dog happens to bite someone, remember that you are responsible to help the person who has been bitten and to remove your dog from the situation.

  • Restrain your dog immediately.
  • Separate your dog from the scene of the bite.
  • Try to confine your dog in a safe place.
  • Check on the bite victim’s condition.
  • Make sure that the wounds are washed with soap and water.
  • Encourage the bite victim to seek professional medical advice to check on the seriousness of the wound and the risk of rabies or other infections.
  • Call 9-1-1 if a response by paramedics is needed.
  • Provide important information.
  • Give the bite victim – or others who are with the person at the time of the incident – your name, address and phone number, as well as information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination.
  • Obey local rules and laws regarding reporting of dog bites.
  • Talk to your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar incidents in the future.

 

DOG BITE CASES

The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have decades of experience handling dog bite cases on behalf of victims.

Most recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a claim on behalf of the family of a second-grade student who was bitten on the face by a dog while in her classroom. Leilani, 8, suffered severe lacerations and tearing to her face when she was attacked by one of two large dogs visiting her classroom on May 9 at Wayside Elementary School (Bakersfield City School District) in south Bakersfield. The dogs belonged to a volunteer reader from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office.

The family alleges in the claim that Bakersfield City School District and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office negligently allowed the volunteer reader to bring into the classroom two dogs, and failed to supervise the dogs in a safe manner. As a result, Leilani suffered severe injuries. The family further alleges that the dog owner is strictly liable pursuant to California Civil Code section 3342 (Dog Bite Statute).

This case is a warning to school officials and parents toward allowing animals near young students on school campuses.

In another case, Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what was the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California at the time, according to VerdictSearch, a verdict and settlement database.

In this case, a 21-year-old was attacked by a K-9 dog accompanying a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy while outside of a restaurant in north Bakersfield. Responding to a domestic dispute, the deputy exited his patrol vehicle and began walking toward Casey. At that time, the K-9 exited the patrol car, ran toward Casey and began biting her for 60 to 90 seconds. Casey suffered several major bite wounds to her leg.

Investigation found that the K-9 escaped from its holding kennel in the back of the patrol car due to a mechanical defect inside of the car. The deputy agreed that the K-9 should not have been let out of the patrol car. In addition, the K-9 failed to respond to commands from the deputy to cease attacking.

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If you or someone you know is bitten or attacked by a dog, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Coronavirus and the workplace: Benefits available to help impacted workers in California

March 18, 2020 | 6:00 am


The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continues to affect all aspects of everyday life in our country, including workplaces.

Businesses across the United States are temporarily closing or asking employees to work from home to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. In Kern County, many are still being asked to go to work, while other workers are having to choose between staying home or going to work to get a pay check.

But what if you become ill or contract coronavirus due to work conditions? What benefits are available should you be out of work from illness associated with the virus?

Read below to learn what responsibility employers have to keep workers safe, benefits available to workers affected by the coronavirus outbreak, and steps you can take in the case you contract coronavirus from work.

 

Employer responsibility 

Workplace safety and health regulations in California require employers to protect workers exposed to airborne infectious diseases such as the coronavirus. Cal/OSHA has posted guidance to help employers comply with these safety requirements and to provide workers information on how to protect themselves.

Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard (Section 5199) also requires protection for employees working at health care facilities, and other services and operations, including:

  • Hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, clinics, medical offices, outpatient medical facilities, home health care, long-term health care facilities, hospices, medical outreach services, medical transport and emergency medical services.
  • Certain laboratories, public health services and police services that are reasonably anticipated to expose employees to an aerosol transmissible disease.
  • Correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and drug treatment programs.

To protect workers and prevent exposure to viruses, employers must develop and maintain the required programs and plans for their facility or operation. More resources from Cal/OSHA to protect workers can be found by clicking here.

 

Coronavirus and workers’ compensation 

The workers’ compensation system in California is a no-fault system, meaning that an employee claiming a work-related injury does not need to prove negligence on the part of the employer. Instead, the employee need only prove that the injury occurred at work and was proximately caused by their employment.

But since the virus is not an “injury” per say, it is categorized as an “occupational disease.” To be an occupational disease, an employee must generally show two things:

  • The illness or disease must be “occupational,” meaning that it arose out of and was in the course of employment.
  • The illness or disease must arise out of, or be caused by, conditions peculiar to the work and creates a risk of contracting the disease in a greater degree and in a different manner than in the public generally.

Special consideration is given to health care workers and first responders, as these employees will likely enjoy a presumption that any communicable disease was contracted as the result of employment. This would also include nurses and physicians who are exposed to the virus while at the worksite.

For other categories of employees, benefits for a workers’ compensation claim will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The key point will be whether the employee contracted the virus at work and whether the contraction of the disease was “peculiar” to their employment. Even if the employer takes all of the right steps to protect the employees from exposure, a benefits claim may be determined where the worker can show that they contracted the virus after an exposure, the exposure was distinctive to the work, and there are no alternative means of exposure demonstrated.

As of now, an employee seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a coronavirus infection will have to provide medical evidence to support the claim.

Finally, states are taking action on this specific issue. Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries changed its policies for health care workers and first responders to “provide benefits to these workers during the time they’re quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 on the job.” Other states may follow.

Update: On May 6, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order made it easier for essential workers who contract COVID-19 to obtain workers’ compensations benefits. The order streamlined workers’ compensation claims and established a rebuttable presumption that any essential workers infected with COVID-19 contracted the virus on the job. In effect, the change shifts the burden of proof that typically falls on workers and instead requires companies or insurers to prove that the employees didn’t get sick at work.The change covers claims filed for 60 days from the May 6 announcement and is retroactive to claims filed as early as March 19. The new rules apply to workers who tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work, or those who received a diagnosis within 14 days that was confirmed by a positive test no more than 30 days later. Employers have 30 days to rebut a claim.

 

Benefits available to infected workers

As discussed, if you are unable to do your usual job because you were exposed to and contracted COVID-19 during the regular course of your work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Those benefits include temporary disability (TD) payments, which begin when your doctor says you can’t do your usual work for more than three days or you are hospitalized overnight, according to California’s Labor & Workforce Development Agency. You may be entitled to TD for up to 104 weeks. Those disability payments stops when either you return to work, your doctor releases you for work, or your doctor says your illness has improved as much as it’s going to. This generally pays two-thirds of the gross wages you lose while you are recovering from a work-related illness or injury, up to maximum weekly amount set by law.

In addition, eligible employees are entitled to medical treatment and additional payments if a doctor determines you suffered a permanent disability because of the illness.

 

Other work benefits 

If you get sick or are quarantined, here’s what you can do: First, California’s paid sick leave law provides time off to many workers. You are entitled to use whatever sick leave you have accumulated. But in the event of a particularly long illness, you may be eligible for disability benefits, provided your illness is certified by a medical professional.

California’s Employment Development Department will now waive the one-week waiting period for people who are disabled as a result of COVID-19, according to an executive order. The Employment Development Department also provides a variety of support services to individuals affected.

  • Caregiving: If you are unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, you can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim. PFL provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week. If you are eligible, the EDD processes and issues payments within a few weeks of receiving a claim.
  • Childcare: If you have child care concerns as a result of coronavirus, the California EDD says you may be eligible for benefits. If your child’s school is closed, and you have to miss work to be there for them, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Eligibility considerations include if you have no other care options and if you are unable to continue working your normal hours remotely. File an Unemployment Insurance claim and our EDD representatives will decide if you are eligible.
  • Reduced Hours: If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. UI provides partial wage replacement benefit payments to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced, through no fault of their own. Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks are not required to actively seek work each week. However, they must remain able and available and ready to work during their unemployment for each week of benefits claimed and meet all other eligibility criteria. Eligible individuals can receive benefits that range from $40-$450 per week.
  • Exposed to Coronavirus: If you’re unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. DI provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week.

 

Message to our clients

Like all of you, we continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 outbreak around the world, and especially in our own community.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles remains dedicated to helping injured clients from throughout Kern County.

Our law firm prides itself on giving people direct access to the attorneys and staff who are working on their cases, and this will continue. Should you need to speak with our attorneys for any reason, we are available any time by phone, email, and chat on our website.

As for those who we’re currently helping with cases, we are still here for you. We ask that you call or email us with any questions you may have on your case. If we can respond to your questions or concerns over the telephone, or by way of email, we will make every effort to do so. In accordance with CDC recommendation we are trying to minimize in-person meetings, when possible. However, should you desire to meet with your attorney or other staff member in person, we will make every effort to accommodate that meeting.

As always, you can reach out to us at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the meantime, please take care of yourself and your family.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, contract an illness at work, 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

New state Assembly Bill targets street racing, increasing penalties for dangerous activity

March 11, 2020 | 10:34 am


Outrage had been building in Bakersfield over widespread incidents of street racing, and it reached a boiling point after an alleged street racing crash killed a Bakersfield woman and injured two children riding with her in a minivan.

The issue hits close to home for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which is representing one of the children who suffered major injuries in that November 2019 crash that killed 58-year-old Maria Blaney Navarro. Reckless driving is a nuisance in our neighborhoods at the very least, but it injures and kills too many innocent people each year.

It’s why Chain | Cohn | Stiles is in full support of a new state Assembly Bill 2565 introduced by Assemblyman Vince Fong of Bakersfield, and co-authored by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman of Glendale, that would bring additional penalties to those who publicly exhibit street racing behaviors.

“I authored this bill in response to what our local law enforcement officials have conveyed as a troubling and problematic trend in our neighborhoods,” Fong said in the statement. “We need to increase the penalties for illegal street racing activities to send a message that this activity will not be tolerated.”

Under AB 2565, acts such as engine-revving and burning out vehicle tires in front of a group of spectators could lead to suspension of a driver’s license. The bill would provide an additional tool for law enforcement as officials look to curtail street racing in Kern County and throughout the state.

Bakersfield Police arrested 50-year-old Ronald Dean Pierce in connection with the death of Navarro, and faces a second-degree murder charge, as well as suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving causing an injury, and participating in an illegal speed contest. Police said he was racing a Mustang against another vehicle in southwest Bakersfield when he lost control of the vehicle and struck the van not involved in the race. The impact caused the van to spin out of control into oncoming traffic, where it was then hit by a crane truck, killing Navarro and injuring two grandchildren.

For years, residents in southwest Bakersfield had complained to police about the prevalence of street racing and parking-lot gatherings. After the fatal crash, police responded with overtime traffic enforcement targeting street racers.

Currently, street racing in California is a misdemeanor with penalties including a jail sentence, fine between $355 and $1,000, community service, suspension of your driver’s license, and impounding of vehicles. However, prior convictions for street racing or if someone is injured in the race could face “enhanced” penalties including more jail sentence, fines, and suspensions.

The Assembly Bill is pending referral to a policy committee for a hearing in the coming weeks.

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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.

‘Judicial emergency’ results in lack of justice for Kern County residents

February 26, 2020 | 10:28 am


The Central Valley’s federal district court has instituted a “judicial emergency” order due to a shortage of judges, and thousands of Kern County residents — including clients of Chain | Cohn | Stiles — are being left with a feeling of injustice.

Federal Judge Dale A. Drozd of the U.S. Eastern District Court of California, the federal judicial district that includes Bakersfield and the southern Central Valley area, stated that the judicial emergency order “will seriously hinder the administration of justice” in the district.

“These are uncharted waters for this court,” Drozd wrote in his order. “The emergency procedures … are being implemented reluctantly.”

The district, which serves 8 million Californians is supposed to have six full-time judges — three in Fresno and three in Sacramento, said Matt Clark, senior partner and personal injury lawyer with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. But in the past two months, three judges in Fresno have assumed reduced work status or inactive status. Drozd will now be presiding over some 1,050 civil actions and 625 criminal cases.

“We have one judge” in Fresno, Clark told The Bakersfield Californian. “We are the single most impacted district in the country.”

For media coverage, see the links below.

The emergency is already affecting hundreds of local cases and local families, possibly thousands. They include:

Joan Johnson has penned letters to local elected officials, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, addressing the judicial emergency. Federal judges are nominated by presidents and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. No judges in the Eastern District have been appointed by President Trump, though Republicans have been the majority party in the Senate since January 2015.

Considering the history of the Eastern District, the shortfall in resources has been foreseen for years. For more than a decade the Judicial Conference of the United States has recommended that the district be authorized for up to six additional judgeships, doubling its current allocation. However, those recommendations have not been acted upon. Considering the history of the Eastern District, the shortfall in resources has been foreseen for years. For more than a decade the Judicial Conference of the United States has recommended that the district be authorized for up to six additional judgeships, doubling its current allocation. However, those recommendations have not been acted upon.

This is the case despite the fact that since the last new district judgeship was created in the Eastern District in 1978, the population of the district has grown from 2.5 million residents to more than 8 million. By contrast, the Northern District of California, which has a similar population, operates with 14 authorized district judges, Drozd said in his order.

“There are over 1,000 civil cases now on hold,” Clark said. “That’s a thousand more families going through the same thing.”

Below is a portion of a letter sent to elected officials by Joan Johnson:

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My name is Joan M. Johnson.  I am married to William “Lee” Johnson, and together we are the owners of a family trucking business that has been in existence since 1968.

In December 2018, my husband Lee was nearly killed in an explosion at a compressed natural gas fueling station.  He sustained various life-threatening injuries, including a severe traumatic brain injury.  The explosion was so powerful, it leveled the fueling station.  Although Lee ultimately survived, after months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, his injuries have taken their toll.  He still suffers daily, as does our business.

In an effort to recover for our losses, we retained an attorney.  Our attorney filed a lawsuit in Federal Court, in the Eastern District of California, in early 2019.  At the time of the initial scheduling conference, trial was set for May 4, 2021.  Although this was a long way out in the future, it was acceptable, and we had a “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Recently, our attorney has informed us of the judicial emergency in the Eastern District, as a result of Congress’ inability to appoint any new judges in our district.  I have attached to this letter a copy of the Order in Light of Ongoing Judicial Emergency.  In a nutshell, there is only one judge remaining in the Eastern District, and for the foreseeable future, civil cases, like ours, will be delayed indefinitely.  Our light at the end of the tunnel, it has been extinguished.  The hope for civil justice for my husband’s life-changing injuries, and our business losses, has been delayed indefinitely.

As I understand it, our case could proceed efficiently, if everyone was in agreement with having a federal magistrate oversee the trial.  We would stipulate to a magistrate, however the defendants in our case will not.  I imagine this is true in most civil cases in our district, because why would a defendant stipulate to a magistrate, and resolve the matter more quickly, when they can simply use this judicial emergency as a reason to delay, delay, delay.

We are not a family to ask much of our government.  In fact, we are quite the opposite.  We serve our Country.  My husband’s father, he was veteran.  My husband Lee, he is a veteran.  My son, he is a veteran too (with three Purple Hearts to show for it).  We believe in giving back, and supporting the Country we love, and the government that keeps it running.  We now respectfully ask that our government help us, and that priority be given to the appointment of judges in the Eastern District of California.

Anything you can do to help alleviate the judicial emergency in the Eastern District would be greatly appreciated.  I never understood the true meaning of “justice delayed, is justice denied,” until now.  Our livelihood, and my husband’s well-being depends on an operating civil justice system.  As the Court said in its Standing Order, this judicial emergency is not “conducive to the fair administration of justice.”  I am certain that there are many families dependent on the fair administration of justice in the Eastern District.

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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

BTuff Magazine Interview: Attorney Matt Clark and the importance of Kern County’s oil industry

February 12, 2020 | 6:00 am


To say the gas and petroleum industries are important for Kern County is an understatement.

In fact, California produces more oil than all but three other states (Texas, North Dakota and Alaska), and Kern County is responsible for more than 80 percent of California’s oil production, according to a Duke University study.

So as proposed new state regulations threaten to wind down petroleum production — and in turn threaten Kern County’s economy and tax base — local oil industry representatives, elected officials, community leaders, advocates, and workers are standing up. And that includes Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Senior partner and veteran personal injury attorney Matt Clark recently sat down with Bakersfield Tuff (BTuff) Magazine to discuss the importance of the industries locally, and share how Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the local oil industry have worked together over the years. For example, the law firm has represented workers in these industries for much of its 85-year history, and cases have resulted in safer workplaces for oilfield workers.

You can watch the full interview below or on YouTube here.

A recent Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting, where the state’s oil-unfriendly policies were a focus — drew an audience of more than 1,000 industry supporters — the largest crowd convened in recent years for a government proceeding in Bakersfield, according to media reports.

Since the early 20th century, when oil was discovered in western Kern County, the area’s economy has largely centered on oil and gas production. Today, the local oil industry employs about 14,000 people directly, and 30,000 work in associated jobs, according to The Bakersfield Californian. And these industries account for over 30% of Kern County’s assessed property values, according to reports. Those funds pay for public services, including road maintenance, schools, police departments, fire departments, and much more. An industry-funded study by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. found that Kern oil production generates $925 million in state and local oil revenues per year and $1.6 billion in labor income.

California officials recently invited Kern County representatives to participate in preparing for an inevitable economic transition they said would take into account the county’s dependence on oil production. In November last year, the stated cited a goal of achieving “carbon neutrality” by 2045 when it imposed extra layers of permitting scrutiny for the well-stimulation technique known as fracking and placed a temporary ban on high-pressure steam injections, according to reports.

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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 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.

‘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.

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.