Chain | Cohn | Stiles responds to Kern County DA’s office decision to not file charges in wrongful death case

March 16, 2016 | 7:55 am


The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles responded to the recent decision by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office to not pursue criminal charges against the deputy involved in the fatal crash in Bakersfield that killed motorcyclist Larry Maharrey.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death claim related to the crash. On July 14, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road, when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.

Deputy Gomez violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light. And the California Highway Patrol Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team suggested a vehicular manslaughter charge against Gomez.

The widow of Larry Maharrey, Paula Maharrey, as well as Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matthew Clark, shared their statements with local media regarding the District Attorney’s Office decision to not file charges against Sgt. Gomez in the fatal crash:

PAULA MAHARREY, WIDOW

“I’m very disappointed by the District Attorney’s refusal to prosecute Sgt. Gomez. My family is upset by the fact that the District Attorney and Sgt. Gomez are both employees of the County of Kern. It appears that one county agency is defending another, and it screams of a conflict of interest. We wish that an independent investigating agency such as the state Attorney General’s Office would look into this matter. We are also saddened by the fact that the needless loss of my husband’s life will do nothing to discourage this kind of reckless driving in the future.”

MATTHEW CLARK, ATTORNEY

“I, like my clients, are very disappointed in the Office of the District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute Sgt. Gomez. We’ve had four innocent lives lost in the county in the last four years due to the reckless driving exhibited by some employees of Kern County Sheriff’s Department. This is the most offensive kind of loss of life in light of the fact that people are being killed by those very officers who have taken on a duty to protect them.

“In an approximately 250-page report, the CHP Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team concluded that Sgt. Gomez’s conduct substantiated a violation of California Penal Code Section 192 (c) (2) – Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter. The District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute appears to be in conflict of interest given the fact that the District Attorney and Sgt. Gomez are both employees of the County of Kern.

Without question, Sgt. Gomez conduct in this case was in violation of Kern County Sheriff’s Office policy regarding emergency driving in that he failed to pre-clear the lanes of the intersection. His failure to do so killed Larry Maharrey. The failure to prosecute sends the wrong message to law enforcement, suggesting that they are above the law.”

MEDIA COVERAGE

PREVIOUS MEDIA COVERAGE

Law firm files wrongful death claim in fourth deputy-involved fatal crash in four years

August 18, 2015 | 10:05 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently filed a wrongful death claim against the County of Kern related to a Kern County’s Sheriff deputy involved crash with a motorcyclist. Local media covered a press conference hosted by Matthew C. Clark and Neil Gehlawat from the personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm, which included the release of surveillance video of the crash.

Read below and click the links to see full coverage of the press conference and media mentions.

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(Bakersfield, Calif. – Aug. 12, 2015) For more than 20 years, Larry Eugene Maharrey, 59, worked for Golden State Drilling as a diesel mechanic to provide for his family. At his vigil, friends and family described him as “a good man” who would do anything for anyone in need. He especially enjoyed fishing and riding his motorcycle.

On July 14, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road, when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.

Deputy Gomez violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light. In what has become a tragic and unfortunate trend, Maharrey’s death comes at the heels of another wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the family of Nancy Garrett, who was struck and killed by KCSO deputy Nicholas Clerico.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death claim against the County of Kern on behalf of Maharrey’s wife, Paula, and other family members. Attorneys Matthew Clark and Neil Gehlawat – joined by Maharrey’s widow – will host a press conference to discuss the filing of the claim. A copy of the claim will be provided to media, as well as surveillance video of the crash.

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During the press conference, Paula Maharrey, Larry’s wife of 14 years, described him as a “crack-up,” a family man who would give his shirt off of his back to a stranger, and an all-around “good man.”

“I miss him every day,” Paula Maharrey said during the press conference. “I just want the Kern County Sheriff’s Office to take responsibility for their actions, follow their own set rules, and train their staff better.”

This wrongful death claim against the County of Kern follows another wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Nancy Joyce Garrett’s family. Nancy Garrett was driving home from a Dodgers game when she was struck and killed by Deputy Nicholas Clerico’s Kern County Sheriff’s Office patrol car. Chain | Cohn | Stiles also represented the family of Daniel Hiler, who was struck and killed by Sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin as he crossed the street.

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UPDATE, MAY 2018: Chain | Cohn | Stiles reached a settlement with the County of Kern on behalf of the family of Larry Maharrey. The parties agreed to a $3.8 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Claim filed against county in connection with fatal crash involving deputy (The Bakersfield Californian)

Family of man who died when his motorcycle hit a deputy patrol car has filed a wrongful death claim (KGET 17, NBC)

Kern County faces wrongful death claim in deputy crash (KBAK-KBFX 29-58, CBS-FOX)

Attorneys release video of fatal crash between KCSO deputy and motorcyclist (KERO 23, ABC)

Oildale man’s death comes as sheriff’s office tries to crack down on speed (The Bakersfield Californian – July 15, 2015)

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit for family of woman killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy

July 15, 2015 | 11:13 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when a Kern County Sheriff’s Office patrol car operated by Deputy Nicholas Clerico struck and killed her.

The filing of the lawsuit is on the heels of the release of the California Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) report regarding the crash that occurred on Sept. 28, 2014, at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale. The report finds Deputy Clerico at fault in the crash, and the CHP report recommended that a vehicular manslaughter charge be filed against the deputy.

Nancy was a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and the pillar of her family. She was a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provides DUI awareness services. At the time of the crash, she was returning home from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark was joined by Garrett’s grown children, Mark McGowan and Deborah Blanco, for press conference on July 9 to discuss the case, the 230-page MAIT report, and the lawsuit.

To view media coverage of the crash involving Garrett and Clerico and Chain | Cohn | Stiles representation of Garrett’s family, click here. To see media coverage following the press conference and filing of the lawsuit, view them below.

The unveiling of the MAIT report, the filing of the lawsuit by Chain | Cohn | Stiles and subsequent media coverage of the wrongful death case also comes in the midst of yet another tragic crash involving a Kern Count Sheriff’s deputy.

A 59-year-old motorcyclist Bakersfield man riding a motorcycle died Tuesday evening in Oildale when his motorcycle struck a patrol car driven by a deputy responding to an emergency call, according to local media reports. The crash is under investigation.

The crashes and lawsuits also come just a few years following another high-profile case represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles involving a fatal crash with a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy.

On Dec. 16, 2011, Kern County sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin struck and killed Daniel Hiler, 24, and Chrystal Jolley, 30, as they pushed a motorcycle across Norris Road. Swearengin was traveling at more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone, without activating his emergency lights or siren. Chain | Cohn | Stiles sued the County of Kern on behalf of the families, and settled last year for $8.8 million.

In the lawsuit related to Nancy Garrett, her family and attorneys are asking for changes within the sheriff’s department in how deputies are trained properly throughout Bakersfield and other communities across Kern County.

UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2020: The case has been delayed due, in part, to the Central Valley’s federal district court instituting a “judicial emergency” order due to a shortage of judges. 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.

UPDATE – JUNE 2020: The case has been resolved through a settlement.

 

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PRESS CONFERENCE MEDIA COVERAGE

LAWSUIT MEDIA COVERAGE

SETTLEMENT COVERAGE

CCS represents family of woman killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy

October 6, 2014 | 9:07 am


On Sept. 28, 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett was driving her vehicle at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale when she was struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle. Garrett’s family has retained the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Below is the news release sent by CCS to local media, followed by the subsequent various news coverage:

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles represents family of woman killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy

Bakersfield, Calif. (Oct. 1, 2014) – By all accounts, Nancy Joyce Garrett was a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and most importantly, the pillar of her family. Nancy, 72, had been a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and had also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provide DUI awareness services.

Nancy passed away early Sunday morning when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Clerico collided with the vehicle she was driving at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale. She had just returned to Bakersfield from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Nancy leaves behind a son, Mark, and a daughter, Deborah, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ms. Garrett’s family has retained the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to represent them in this case. Her family is still mourning and requests that their privacy be respected at this time.

Mark McGowan, her son, stated: “We are all devastated. My mother was the most loving woman that you could ever meet. To see her go like this, under such tragic circumstances, breaks our heart. We hope that with time the truth is revealed and that future tragedies like this never happen again. In the meantime, the family requests that the media and members of the public respect our privacy out of deference to my mother.”

The California Highway Patrol’s MAIT Team is currently conducting an investigation of the collision.

Partner Matthew C. Clark added: “What we know at this time is that Nancy Joyce Garrett was a wonderful human being who had devoted her life to giving back to the community. Our hope and expectation is that the CHP will conduct a thorough investigation of this collision. We will not rush to any conclusions in the meantime, and we ask that the public do the same. But we promise to get to the bottom of what happened, and of course, as we learn more about the collision, we will share that information with the public.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles also represented the family of Daniel Ace Hiler, who was hit and killed by Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy John Swearengin more than two years ago. That case resulted in a combined $8.8 million settlement.


1430 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 100 – Bakersfield, CA – 93301 – Phone: 661-323-4000

CHAIN | COHN | STILES is Kern County’s leading plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm, voted Bakersfield’s “Best Law Firm” in The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers Choice Poll the last two years in a row. Our Bakersfield personal injury attorneys have represented clients from throughout the San Joaquin Valley and California for 80 years. We concentrate our efforts on protecting the rights of individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another. If you have been injured due to the fault of another, you have the right to hold that person or entity accountable, no matter how rich or powerful that person or entity may be. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we pride ourselves on having the reputation and resources necessary to overcome the most difficult challenges while achieving the best possible results for our clients.

For more information, go to chainlaw.com, and visit our blog to stay up to date on firm news: chainlawblog.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter (@chainlaw), Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, Pintrest and Google+

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This crash has been covered extensively by Kern County media. Below are some of the news articles and videos of the crash, and the coverage following the news release.

Following the release to local media, several local media outlets informed the public of the news.

And lastly, CCS attorney Matthew Clark spoke with The Bakersfield Californian’s CEO Richard Beene on the live streamed news show “First Look with Scott Cox” regarding the case. Catch the coverage here:

Fatal distracted driving crash involving deputy in Los Angeles similar to local case

September 4, 2014 | 10:17 am


As was reported recently, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer when he fatally struck a cyclist and prominent entertainment attorney in Calabasas in December.

He was riding his bicycle in the bicycle lane when the deputy’s patrol car hit him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The deputy was reportedly returning from a fire call at the time of the collision.

Even though the deputy was inattentive by typing into his mobile computer in his patrol car, the district attorney’s office reported, the deputy “was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response” and “he acted lawfully.” In short, the law does not prohibit officers from using an electronic wireless communications device while on duty.

The cyclist’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the sheriff’s department and the deputy, alleging driver negligence and seeking to obtain more information about the incident.

The situation is similar to another case handled by the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in which two people were struck and killed by Kern County Sheriff’s deputy patrol car as they were legally crossing a street. The deputy was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting them, as was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and siren were not turned on.

In March, the wrongful death case settled for $8.8 million, believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. Read more about the case here. In the criminal case, the deputy took a plea deal, and was sentenced today to 480 hours of community service. During his sentencing, the deputy apologized for the crash.

Simply, distracted driving is dangerous. The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have provided tips in their website for drivers to avoid distracted driving.

  • Use your electronic device only when parked, or have a passenger use it.
  • Never use an electronic device or take notes while driving.
  • If your phone rings while driving, let the cellular voice mail service take the call and listen to the message later when you are parked.

These tips are meant to protect you, your family, and everyone else on the road. Other tips include:

  • Pay attention to the road: Do not take notes or look up phone numbers while driving. If you are reading an address book or business card while driving a car, or writing a “to-do” list, then you are not watching where you are going. It’s common sense. Don’t get caught in a dangerous situation because you are reading or writing and not paying attention to the road or nearby vehicles.
  • Do not engage in distracting conversations: Stressful or emotional conversations and driving do not mix. They are distracting and even dangerous when you are behind the wheel. Make people you are talking with aware you are driving. If necessary, suspend phone conversations which have the potential to divert your attention from the road.

For more tips, go to Chainlaw.com. And for more on distracted driving, laws and statistics, click here.