The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are involved in some of the most significant cases in Kern County. Our vast experience and expertise in handling a variety of different cases allows us to obtain the best possible results for our clients. Over the years, we have been involved in a variety of important cases, ranging from police misconduct cases to oilfield accident cases to product liability cases. The cases on this page represent just some of the important cases we’re currently working on.
- Media Coverage: Chain | Cohn | Stiles files wrongful death claim on behalf of family of man who died while in Lemoore police custody
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.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing three Bakersfield residents who suffered major burn injuries when electronic cigarettes, or “vapes,” they were using failed and exploded spontaneously. Roy Iversen, Vicente Garza and Greg Phillips were each severely burned injured when the e-cigarettes they purchased in local shops suddenly exploded. The battery exploded while in the pants pockets of Iversen and Phillips, and Garza’s exploded in his face as he used it.
“Many consumers don’t know or are unaware of the fact that e-cigarettes and ‘vapes’ that are commonly sold in our community have the potential of exploding during use, or spontaneously catching fire,” said Matthew Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “These items are being marketed and sold without regulation oftentimes to young people in our community who have no idea that the ‘vape’ they’re carrying in their pocket, or e-cigarette they’re putting up to their mouths, can explode and catch fire. As you can imagine, as people are using these devices right next to their faces or carrying them on their person when they catastrophically malfunction, the injuries can be severe and life-changing.”
Chain | Cohn | Stiles 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 came 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 found 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.
Nancy left behind a son, Mark, and a daughter, Deborah, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed 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.
In one of the cases, 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.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the Bakersfield Chapter of NAACP have filed government claims for wrongful arrest, excessive force and racial profiling against the city of Bakersfield and Bakersfield Police Department on behalf of two local college students.
After a night of studying on Dec. 5, Bakersfield College students Timothy Grismore, 21, and Xavier Hines, 19, were walking on the sidewalk on their way to get something to eat at Taco Bell when an unmarked patrol car approached them on Valhalla Drive, behind West High School, and shined lights on them. Two individuals, who later identified themselves as police officers, asked if Grismore and Hines were on probation or parole, and began to search them. The officers then slammed Grismore on the ground and struck him with batons, after he asked why he was being searched. He suffered bruises on his body and needed stitches to close wounds on his face. Both young men were detained overnight.
The Kern County District Attorney’s Office refused to file charges against them, stating the young men violated no laws, and the officers had no right to stop the two, search them or detain them.
The case comes after the state Attorney General’s Office announced its civil rights investigation into the “pattern and practice” of excessive force by local law enforcement. With the help of NAACP Bakersfield, the young men posted a video discussing the wrongful arrest, which has garnered nearly 250,000 views on the organization’s Facebook page.
The case is ongoing.
Tatyana Hargrove, an African-American teenage victim of police brutality in a case that received national attention, filed a legal claim against the City of Bakersfield and its police officers.
Hargrove was riding her bicycle on June 18 in southwest Bakersfield in search of a Father’s Day gift when Bakersfield Police Department officers stopped and detained her at gunpoint. In the course of the encounter, Hargrove was punched and kneed in the face and bitten severely by a police dog. The police officers claimed they mistook her for a male suspect. Hargrove – who is 19 years old, 5-feet, 2-inches tall, and weighs 120 pounds – suffered major face and leg injuries, in addition to the obvious emotional trauma.
Police initially charged her with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, interfering with a peace officer’s animal, and resisting an executive officer. The Kern County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against her. A video produced by the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP regarding the incident has garnered nearly 8 million and attracted national media attention.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a lawsuit against Valley Convalescent Hospital in Bakersfield on behalf of the family of an 80-year-old patient who died as a result of neglect at the facility.
Robert Hopkins fell from his bed in February while housed at the facility after a nursing assistant failed to ensure a guardrail was properly set. He suffered a fracture in his vertebrae below the skull, spent a week in the hospital, returned to Valley Convalescent Hospital on Feb. 28, and died the following day.
The California Department of Public Health determined Hopkins’ death was a result of his fall. The Department fined the facility $100,000 and it received the most severe penalty under California law (Class AA Citation). Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed an elder neglect and wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Hopkins’ family.
Valley Convalescent Hospital has had a long history of complaints for elder abuse and neglect. Since 2012, the California Department of Public Health has recorded nine complaints of patients falling, and has taken action against the facility 15 times since 2006, according to reports. Valley Convalescent has been fined more than $160,000 since 2003. This year, it has received eight complaints, and the Department has found 28 deficiencies, reports show.
The family of Robert Hopkins hopes to prevent future similar incidents in Kern County.
Jason Harvey, 42, was riding his motorcycle home from work on Sept. 29, 2016, when the defendant, pulled out from a stop sign, directly into Harvey’s path. Harvey struck the California Water Service Company pick-up truck on the driver’s side, near the area where the cab meets the bed. He was transported from the scene by ambulance, and was later pronounced dead at Kern Medical Center. Although he was wearing a helmet at the time of the wreck, Harvey died of numerous blunt force injuries.
The Bakersfield Police Department, after conducting a thorough investigation, concluded that the defendant was at fault for the wreck.
Jason left behind a wife, Katrina, and a son and step-daughter.
This case arises out of the wrongful termination of plaintiff’s employment with defendant.
Plaintiff had worked for defendant for approximately 16 years when he began to suffer from back pain and foot pain. Plaintiff required back surgery in or around September 2015. As a result, he was taken off work by both his back and foot doctors. During plaintiff’s medical leave, he routinely provided updates to his employer regarding his treatment status and expected return to work date.
On or about March 29, 2016, plaintiff’s foot doctor cleared him to return to work. Plaintiff provided confirming documentation to his employer, at which time he was advised that he would also need to be cleared by his back doctor before returning to work. Plaintiff informed defendant that his back doctor was on vacation, and the soonest possible appointment plaintiff could obtain was on April 4, 2016.
On or about March 30, 2016, plaintiff was asked to clear out his desk and return his clearance badge. The next day, plaintiff was terminated via voicemail from his supervisor. On or about April 4, 2016, as expected, plaintiff was cleared to return to work by his back doctor. Plaintiff provided confirming documentation to his employer and asked them to reconsider his termination. Defendant failed to reinstate plaintiff’s employment despite his being medically cleared to return to work only a few days after termination.
Donald Hill, a 30-year-old civilian employee at Naval Base San Diego, died on Dec. 31, 2016 while he was being restrained by Lemoore police officers near the 1100 block of Pine Court. A “spit hood” was placed over Hill’s head, he was restrained chest down with weight on his back, and he vomited and stopped breathing. After he became unresponsive, he was transported to Adventist Medical Center in Hanford, where he was pronounced dead.
Hill’s family has many unanswered questions about the death of their loved one, which they believe to have been avoidable and preventable. They don’t understand why Hill couldn’t have been taken safely into custody without killing him.
The family of Donald Hill filed a wrongful death claim against the City of Lemoore.
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.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing Lester and Walls in this premises liability and burn injury case.