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.

 

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.

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

November 27, 2019 | 6:00 am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

‘Bored in Bakersfield’ show highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles historic ‘haunted’ building

November 13, 2019 | 9:37 am


Downtown Bakersfield is full of history, and the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building in the heart of downtown is no exception.

In fact, since 1870, the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue in downtown Bakersfield — where the law firm calls home now — has been home to various local businesses including mostly banks, and also a Goodwill.

Countless stories can be told about the happenings inside of the building’s walls, which is the reason the popular “Bored in Bakersfield” show decided to pay a visit and highlight the building’s history, and rumored paranormal activity.  The program showcases places, businesses, events, and people in Kern County, and is used as a tool for those looking for fun things to do in Bakersfield.

You can watch the show at the link below, and you can learn even more about the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building history by reading on.

 

BUILDING HISTORY

The southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue was the site of the first Kern Valley Bank until it closed in 1911, and would remain home to several other banks in the century that followed including National Bank, Crocker-Anglo Bank, and most currently Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual. Goodwill Industries took over the 30,000 square-foot building in the 2000s until 2011, and remained empty until Chain | Cohn | Stiles moved in 2014.

Chain Cohn Stiles, itself a longtime Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm, celebrating 85 years this year in downtown Bakersfield, occupies the ground floor and uses the basement for storage, while the second floor is leased out to the Kern County College of Law.

Here are some other interesting facts about the historic building:

  • 30,000 square feet occupied most recently by Goodwill Industries of South Central California.
  • Sixth-month, seven-figure renovation. Features include motion sensor LED lighting throughout, and high-tech energy efficient HVAC system with more than 20 thermostats.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes up the entire first floor: 10,000 square feet, 18 offices, four conference rooms and several open work stations.
  • Second floor is available for lease. Basement is used for law firm storage and files, and game room.
  • This building has views of most of the previous law firm homes since 1934: Haberfelde (1934-1938), Sill Building (1938-1970) and most recently Bank of America (1990-2015).
  • 5 new windows were cut from the 17-inch concrete on the north-facing wall. Each slab of concrete weighed 20,000 pounds.
  • Kern Valley Bank held a grand opening in this location on July 6, 1889. The next day, the great Bakersfield fire destroyed the building. It was rebuilt immediately after.
  • Anglo-California Bank opened at this location on Aug. 11, 1938, designed by Bakersfield architect Charles H. Biggar. Perhaps the only remaining featured from this building is the demarcation on the roof.
  • The building was remodeled on Aug. 4, 1954 by Anglo California National Bank, bringing much of the exterior to what is it today. Other bank tenants over the years include Crocker National Bank, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual.
  • Still remaining in this building are three bank vaults: one on the first floor’s south end, and two in the basement, reportedly used as bomb shelters.
  • Our inside and outside sign lights can be changed colors to honor various holidays and observations.
  • The 18th Street entrance features an elevator lined with white marble and a staircase of beautiful green terrazzo flooring, probably a holdover from the 1954 remodel.
  • The arched roof from the original 1930s Anglo-California National Bank is still present.
  • In the basement is an incinerator from the Kerner Incinerator Co. of San Francisco, dated 1914, that still holds old bank transactions.

 

MEDIA COVERAGE

News investigation highlights cost of school employee ‘administrative leave’ in Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil lawsuits

October 9, 2019 | 3:26 pm


In the 2018-2019 school year, the Kern High School District had five employees who faced allegations involving sexually inappropriate behavior, including alleged suspects in Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil lawsuits. Eyewitness News, in an investigation, found that those employees, put on administrative leave while they were being investigated for sex crimes, earned a combined $162,000.

Once you factor in the cost of substitute teachers and legal fees, roughly $250,000 of taxpayer money was spent on these educators who were not educating anyone, the KBAK-29 Eyewitness News investigation found.

“As a taxpayer, I’m offended,” said David Cohn in an interview with Eyewitness News. Cohn is the managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles and attorney representing four of the eight families who have filed claims against Edwin Rodriguez and the high school district. “These serious allegations have been made against him with multiple young women. Once he’s arrested why can’t the district judge just fire him at that point?”

Kern County Sheriff’s Office 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. In February, local media reported 10 people came forward to investigators alleging inappropriate physical contact and other unwanted interaction by Rodriguez while he worked as an athletic equipment manager at North High School.

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 is 19 years old, and 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

Under Education Code 44939, schools can suspend school employees without pay in the case of a serious, immoral or criminal conduct, and have an expedited hearing in 60 days. In the case of Rodriguez, KHSD did not immediately fire or remove his pay, and the investigation took much longer than 60 days. The high school district said in a statement during that time that they “fully cooperated with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office as it investigated allegations against Edwin Rodriguez. KHSD placed Edwin Rodriguez on an unpaid leave immediately after he was charged with a mandatory leave of absence offense as required by Education Code.”

In the case of Edwin Rodriguez, he was placed on leave for 102 days starting in September 2018 over allegations of sexually assaulting as many as ten students at North High School. He was paid over $16,000 during that span, according to the news investigation. Rodriguez resigned in May 2019 and is facing 24 criminal charges.

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.”

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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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If you or someone you know is sexually abused by someone in authority, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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