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)

Local media highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles sexual assault cases in Kern County juvenile hall

April 1, 2015 | 10:11 am


Sexual violence is a serious problem in the United States that affects millions of women, and also men. In fact, 1 in 5 women in the United States (and 1 in 59 men) have been raped in their lifetime, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.

But even these statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell law enforcement officials, family or friends about the sexual violence, which is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given.

It’s the goal of “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” observed each year in April, to call attention to sexual violence, and stop it before it begins.

The campaign is all too relevant at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where local media has been covering several cases involving sexual assault represented by the law firm. For the various media videos and articles related to these sexual assault cases, scroll to the bottom of the page to the “Chain | Cohn | Stiles In the News” section.

SEXUAL ASSAULTS AT JUVENILE HALL

On Friday, March 27, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat hosted a press conference following the filing of two claims against the County of Kern on behalf of two females who were sexually assaulted in separate incidents by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while the girls were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall.

Jane Doe 1 was housed at James G. Bowles Juvenile Hall from June 2014 through February 2015. While there, she enrolled in the Pathways Academy commitment program. Throughout September 2014, Kern County Corrections officer Cesar Holguin Navejar allegedly sexually assaulted her. When she reported the incident, supervisors initiated an administrative and criminal investigation. On Oct. 30, 2014, Navejar was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting Jane Doe 1. He is currently facing six felony charges including sexual battery, assault by a public officer and child molestation.

Jane Doe 2, who was also housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall, was allegedly sexually assaulted by a different male Kern County Juvenile Corrections officer from September 2014 to January 2015.  That suspect has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation.

The case of Jane Doe 2 was revealed after yet another juvenile at the facility complained to authorities that the same suspect Jane Doe 2’s case attempted sexual assault of the victim. And it’s possible there are more victims, Gehlawat said.

“If there are other victims, we want to encourage those victims to come out and tell us what happened,” Gehlawat said on the “First Look with Scott Cox” show. “It can help further bring accountability to these officers.”

The cases also bring about questions about employment issues at the juvenile hall, including whether men should be supervising female inmates. Also, the suspect in Jane Doe 2’s case reportedly has a criminal history.

Gehlawat says that the purpose of these civil cases is to deter this behavior and create a change in the juvenile hall system.

Also during an appearance on “First Look with Scott Cox,” attorney Neil Gehlawat discussed the case of a 21-year-old Tehachapi woman who was sexually assaulted by an on-duty Kern County Sheriff’s deputy. Deputy Gabriel Lopez has been charged in that case. You can read about that case by clicking here.

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

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If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, take the following steps:

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CHAIN | COHN | STILES IN THE NEWS

Legal claims filed for girls allegedly sexually assaulted in Kern juvenile hall (KBAK-KBFX / CBS-Fox)

Two claims filed against Kern County in connection with alleged sexual assaults at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian)

Attorney files claims against county, juvenile corrections officers (KGET / NBC)

Attorney: There may be more victims of guards accused of sexual assault at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian)

Attorney lays out sexual assault claims against juvenile hall officers (KBAK-KBFX / CBS-Fox)

Videos: ‘First Look’: More questions arise in alleged assaults at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian, First Look with Scott Cox)

Neil Gehlawat hosts a press conference (Instagram)

Neil Gehlawat sits in with The Bakersfield Californian CEO Richard Beene on “First Look with Scott Cox” (Google+)

Girls claim juvie guards sexually assaulted them (Courthouse News Service)

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:

Chain | Cohn | Stiles represents victims in explosive accident garnering media attention

August 6, 2014 | 12:00 pm


UPDATE: Arrests have been made in this case. See the news stories below for more information. 

Russell Lester and Bryan Walls were attending a party on Fourth of July in west Bakersfield, celebrating our nation’s independence and wedding reception. By the end of the night, they were in local hospitals.

The two arrived at the party where party-goers were allegedly setting off illegal fireworks and explosives. Lester and Walls were asked to hold the balloons while they were filled with acetylene gas, which is very unstable, highly flammable gas. The balloons were being taped to a pole when they exploded. It’s possible static electricity ignited them.

Four people were severely injured in the blast, including Lester and Walls. The two suffered burns to their face, chest and arms. Lester lost all the hearing in his right ear and partial hearing in his left ear, and lost peripheral vision in his left eye. Walls suffered hearing loss, too, and Lester’s burns were so severe that he was taken to a Fresno burn center. Others were taken to San Joaquin Community Hospital‘s Grossman Burn Center.

Bakersfield personal injury attorney David Cohn, with the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, is representing Lester and Walls, who continue to receive medical treatment.

The incident has been covered by local media in recent days. The case was publicly revealed by KERO Channel-23 News on Aug. 4, a month after the actual accident.

Jim Trino, who allegedly was igniting the bombs, told KERO he was celebrating his wedding reception that night. He told KERO that he had been setting off legal and illegal fireworks for more than 30 years, including the acetylene bomb which he pumped the gas into balloons, hung on a metal pole in the middle of a field, and ignited.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Kern County Fire Arson unit are now investigating.

The Bakersfield Californian also covered the case, including an article by Californian columnist Lois Henry, who argues that local safety agencies failed to inform the public properly about the incident. She calls it “a communications and training failure, something that can only be fixed from the top down.”

To catch up on the news coverage, click the links below:

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The personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are major proponents of fireworks safety and providing burn victims with world-class care. Go HERE for tips on celebrating the Fourth of July safely. And read about our $200,000 donation to the Grossman Burn Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital HERE.

If you’ve been burned in an accident, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles marks one-year anniversary of David Silva wrongful death

May 8, 2014 | 10:50 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles on Thursday morning released a statement to local media marking the one-year anniversary of the wrongful death of David Silva. The Bakersfield personal injury law firm is representing the family of Silva. For news coverage of the anniversary of Silva’s death, follow CCS on social media or return to this blog.

UPDATE: Several media outlets covered the one-year anniversary and protests. See them below.

The news release is as follows:

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May 8, 2014

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Family, attorney mark one-year anniversary of wrongful death of David Silva

Bakersfield, Calif. (May 8, 2014) – On the night of May 7, 2013, David S. Silva was asleep in front of a home in east Bakersfield, across from Kern Medical Center. Several law enforcement officers arrived on scene and proceeded to use unreasonable and excessive force in striking Silva with batons several times all over his body, while he screamed for his life and repeatedly begged the officers to stop. After being repeatedly beaten, bitten and hog-tied, Silva stopped breathing.

Shortly after midnight, Silva was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

“Today marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic and unfortunate death of David Silva at the hands of local law enforcement from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, who is representing the Silva family. “Although disappointed, we were not surprised by District Attorney Lisa Green’s decision several weeks ago to not pursue criminal charges against these officers. That being said, we remain committed to obtaining justice on behalf of David and his entire family, especially his four children, who will be without a father for the rest of their lives.”

He continued: “The road to obtaining justice will be a difficult one; however, we are confident that in the end, the truth will prevail and justice will be done. This case is certainly about David Silva and about what happened to him, but it is also about much more than that. It is about changing the culture of local law enforcement in this community, and holding law enforcement officers who use unreasonable and excessive force accountable for their actions.”

Attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles will be in attendance and support the family of David Silva as they hold a rally at 4 p.m. today at the Liberty Bell outside of Kern County Superior Court, on the corner of Truxtun and Chester avenues.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a civil rights lawsuit in connection with the wrongful death of David Silva. The lawsuit arises out of an incident at the intersection of Flower Street and Palm Street in Bakersfield, when David Silva died as a result of unreasonable and excessive force used by six Sheriff’s deputies, a sergeant, and two California Highway Patrol officers. The complaint seeks damages on behalf of David’s four young children, his significant other, his parents and his brother, for the loss of love, affection, society, service, comfort, support, right of support, expectations of future support and counseling, companionship, solace and mental support, as well as other benefits and assistance of Silva.

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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. 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.

Find us on Facebook, Twitter (@chainlaw), Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp and Google+

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NEWS COVERAGE

KERO-23 (ABC): Silva family attorneys release statement on anniversary of David Silva’s death

KERO-23 (ABC): One year since David Silva died after confrontation with deputies

KERO-23 (ABC): Family marks one year anniversary of David Silva’s death with courthouse rally

New America Media/South Kern Sol: On Anniversary of David Silva Slaying, Protesters Demand Justice

KBAK/KBFX (Fox): Family says justice hasn’t been served for in-custody death

 

What’s new at CCS?

March 24, 2014 | 10:45 am


What is there to celebrate at Chain | Cohn | Stiles? A whole lot.

Let’s start first with our 80-year anniversary! Then we can celebrate our new website redesign, our partnership with the city to keep our local roads clean, and recent media coverage of our case settlements.

This morning we sent out the latest in what will be a quarterly newsletter, focusing on all the news and happenings at your law firm, in and around Bakersfield.

To read the latest newsletter, go HERE.

And don’t miss the next newsletter. Scroll to the bottom of this page, and put in your email address to sign up! Or simply click HERE.

We thank each of you for your support.

Media covers record-breaking Chain | Cohn | Stiles settlement

March 5, 2014 | 4:30 pm


Late last week, Chain | Cohn | Stiles announced a wrongful death settlement between the County of Kern and the families of two people killed by a speeding Kern County Sheriff’s deputy.

That $8.8 million settlement is believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. But the toughest part of a wrongful death case like this, Chain | Cohn | Stiles Managing Partner David K. Cohn says, is placing the value on a human life.

Cohn discussed the case and settlement with The Bakersfield Californian’s CEO Richard Been on “First Look with Scott Cox” live news show. (Watch the video of the show above)

Cohn represented Daniel Hiler’s fiancee and two young sons. The 24-year-old was struck and killed along with Chrystal Jolley, 30, in late 2011 by Kern County Sherriff’s Deputy John Swearengin.

Both were crossing a road in Oildale when Swearengin’s patrol vehicle struck and killed them. Swearengin was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting Hiler and Jolley. He was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and siren were not turned on.

Law enforcement officers can travel in excess of the posted speed limit so long as their forward facing overhead lights are activated to warn others that they are responding to an emergency, but Swearengin didn’t do that, Cohn said. In fact, the deputy violated several policies and procedures.

The Hiler family will receive $4.8 million from the settlement.

“You try to convey that loss of love, society, comfort and protection they (Hiler’s kids) will not have,” Cohn said Tuesday on the show. “And that’s when you ask the jury to consider and put a number on that loss.”

Cohn’s appearance on the live streamed-radio news show was the latest press on the case. Following Friday’s announcement, media from throughout Bakersfield, Kern County, the state and even Associated Press mentioned the civil case’s culmination. The criminal case is ongoing.

Local media coverage included (click the links for news coverage on the case):

The Bakersfield Californian

KGET-17 (NBC)

KBAK 29, KBFX 58 (Fox, BakersfieldNow.com)

KERO-23 (ABC)

And several other news outlets ran the Associated Press story on the Chain | Cohn | Stiles settlement, such as this one here.

While the civil case is settled, the criminal case against Swearengin continues. He is charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and he has plead not guilty.

Cohn also discussed other Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases involving Sheriff’s deputies, including a claim brought by a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a deputy at her home in Tehachapi. The Sheriff’s deputy involved in the sexual assault is currently being prosecuted by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. For more current cases involving Chain | Cohn | Stiles, go to Chainlaw.com.

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UPDATE: Below is media coverage regarding the criminal case against the Kern County Sheriff’s deputy involved in the crash. Local and national media covered the case: