John Chavez


Our former client, John Chavez, was recently honored by the Golden West College Foundation at the school’s “Courtyard of Honor” ceremony. At the ceremony, a bronzed plaque with John’s picture was unveiled and pridefully displayed on one of the College’s “Pillars of Achievement.” The plaque commemorates John as a roll model of inspiration and motivation for all to see. All . . . except John.

John Chavez was the victim of medical malpractice. As a result of anesthesia error during routine ankle surgery, at age 24, John was rendered blind (along with other residual injury). The jury trial of John’s case was complex and lasted several weeks. As is so often the case in the medical malpractice field, the defense attorney and insurance company offered misleading “expert” testimony in an effort to confuse the jury into believing John’s blindness resulted from an irregular pre-existing heart condition. Fortunately, the sophisticated jury was able to see through the illusory defense, and awarded John substantial damages. Wylie Aitken was the lead trial attorney, with Richard Cohn sitting second chair.

That trial was lengthy and difficult; but for John Chavez winning the legal battle was nothing compared to the adversity that he has overcome in the years following his catastrophic injury. At the recent Golden West College ceremony (which both Wylie and Rich attended), John spoke of awakening from surgery unable to see, “learning how to walk again,” and persevering with a positive attitude. When we first met John, we were awestruck by his kind heart and good nature — despite what had happened to him. His attitude never changed.

John was an extraordinary student and athlete prior to his injury. He was involved in two state championships in swimming and water polo. He had just obtained his degree in finance from San Diego State University, and had planned on obtaining his post-graduate degree in business from the same University. He had spent summers as a lifeguard in Huntington Beach. The world was his oyster. One would expect, at a minimum, to hear John express well-justified anger, bitterness and disappointment with this tremendous loss; but John “views” his blindness as an opportunity rather than a disability.

Turning every negative into a positive, John feels blessed to be able to help others with disabilities and is encouraged by spending time doing so. He is active in numerous charities — including his favorite: the annual “Swim With Mike Scholarship Fund,” at USC. This year, John (now age 45) swam an amazing 250 miles for the 25 th Anniversary Event, demonstrating his physical perseverance and continuing love for the sport. At the Golden West College ceremony, John spoke of how when he swims, he allows his mind to be clear of any negative thoughts — a sort of mental therapy.

In the meantime, John has recently commenced a new business venture with two partners, selling and distributing a variety of medical supplies, gasses and devices. There is simply no doubt that he will be successful, and he is quick to point out that he is equally rewarded by knowing his business is one which helps provide supplies and services to others in need.

John Chavez is a reminder of why we practice law, and gives us the inspiration to persevere daily on behalf of others like him. If John Chavez can find a way to help others, day-in and day-out, then so too can we all. It is an honor to serve individuals and families who have been injured or suffered other catastrophic loss; and the lawyers and staff at Aitken Aitken & Cohn wish to thank all of our past and current clients for the privilege of representing them. We can only hope that our guidance, advice and counsel has lessened the burdens of those we serve — and we will remain dedicated to continuing to do so.