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Randy's Trucking, Inc. v. Amtrak

January 7, 2010

RANDY'S TRUCKING, INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
AMTRAK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR GOOD FAITH SETTLEMENT DETERMINATION (Documents 74, 75)

Defendants National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad ("BNSF") filed the instant motion for good faith settlement on June 15, 2009.*fn1

The action was referred to the undersigned for Findings and Recommendation to the District Judge.

BACKGROUND

This is one of three consolidated actions arising out of an accident between an Amtrak train and truck owned by Randy's Trucking, Inc. ("Randy's"), on July 19, 2007. In this lead case, Plaintiffs Randy's and Star Insurance Co. filed an action for property damage against numerous Defendants, including municipal Defendants and Amtrak and BNSF. Plaintiffs believe that the location of a stop sign immediately to the west of the railroad tracks is so close to the tracks that a tractor trailer rig cannot stop at the sign without leaving part of the rig on the tracks. Amtrak and BNSF filed cross-complaints for property damage, etc., against Randy's and Fernando Sandoval, the driver.

In the consolidated action 1:09cv331 OWW DLB, Plaintiffs Robert, Rachel, Jessica and Erica Garcia filed a personal injury action against Amtrak and Randy's in February 2009. After consolidation, Randy's filed a cross-claim for indemnification against Amtrak.*fn2

DISCUSSION

A motion for good faith settlement determination is based upon California Code of Civil Procedure Section 877, which states, in pertinent part:

Where a release, dismissal with or without prejudice, or a covenant not to sue or not to enforce judgment is given in good faith before verdict or judgment to one or more of a number of tortfeasors claimed to be liable for the same tort, or to one or more other co-obligors mutually subject to contribution rights, it shall have the following effect:

(a) It shall not discharge any other such party from liability unless its terms so provide, but it shall reduce the claims against the others in the amount stipulated by the release, the dismissal or the covenant, or in the amount of the consideration paid for it, whichever is greater.

(b) It shall discharge the party to whom it is given from all liability for any contribution to any other parties.

See Rutgard v. Haynes, 61 F.Supp.2d 1082, 1085 (S.D. Cal. 1999).

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 877.6 provides the procedural process by which a party may move for a good faith settlement determination. While the procedures of Section 877.6 do not govern a federal action, the Court has discretion to conduct a hearing pursuant to that section if it determines that such a hearing would be useful. Fed. Sav. and Loan Ins. Corp. v. Butler, 904 F.2d 505, 511 (9th Cir.1990). Although Randy's and Sandoval argue against it, the Court will exercise its discretion and decide the issue under Section 877.6.

In Tech-Bilt, Inc. v. Woodward-Clyde & Assoc., 38 Cal.3d 488, 499-500 (1985), the California Supreme Court set forth factors that a court should consider in determining whether the settlement was made in good faith. These factors are: (1) Whether the amount of the settlement is within the reasonable range of setting tort feasors proportional share of comparative liability; (2) Whether the amount of the settlement is a rough approximation of the plaintiff's total recovery in the tort feasor's proportional liability; (3) The amount paid in settlement; (4) The allocation of settlement proceeds among plaintiffs; (5) The recognition that a settlor should pay less in settlement than he would if he were found liable after trial; (6) Financial conditions and insurance policy limits of the settling tort feasor; (7) A recognition that ...


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