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John Pruitt; John Pruitt, Jr., A Minor, By v. County of Sacramento; Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Sheriff

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


August 31, 2011

JOHN PRUITT; JOHN PRUITT, JR., A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; PHILLIP PRUITT, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; MICHAEL PRUITT, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; ISAIAH PRUITT, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; AND DARRYL BERG, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO; SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT SHERIFF JOHN MCGINNESS; SERGEANT SANTOS RAMOS; DETECTIVE SEAN BERRY; DETECTIVE BRAD ROSE; DETECTIVE RANDY MOYA; DETECTIVE JACQUELINE KLOSS; DETECTIVE KEVIN STEED; DETECTIVE STEVE WHARTON; PROBATION OFFICER TIMOTHY RUIZ; DEPUTY THOMAS LYNN; DEPUTY CRAIG HARMON; AND DOES 1-100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.

ORDER RE: MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF MINORS' COMPROMISE

Plaintiffs John Pruitt, Darryl Berg, and John Pruitt's minor children John Pruitt, Jr., Phillip Pruitt, Michael Pruitt, and Isaiah Pruitt ("Pruitt children") brought this action against defendants County of Sacramento, John McGinness, Santos Ramos, Sean Berry, Brad Rose, Randy Moya, Jacqueline Kloss, Kevin Steed, Steve Wharton, Timothy Ruiz, Thomas Lynn, and Craig Harmon, arising out of a series of events culminating in criminal charges brought and later dismissed against John Pruitt and Darryl Berg. The Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), (Docket No. 51), contains fourteen causes of action, including various claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Pruitt children bring a single claim for denial of due process for separation from their father during his allegedly wrongful incarceration. (See SAC ¶ 120.)

On September 14, 2010, the court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint with leave to amend. (Docket No. 50.) On January 20, 2011, the court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the SAC. (Docket No. 61.)

On May 16, 2011, the parties commenced a mediation of the case, which resulted in an agreement of all parties. (Rosen Decl. ¶¶ 8-9 (Docket No. 73).) Plaintiffs now seek, and defendants do not oppose, the court's approval of the settlement as to the Pruitt children.

The settlement reached is in the amount of $400,000. (Rosen Decl. ¶ 9, Ex. 1.) Under the settlement, the Pruitt children will each receive $2,500 in a separate blocked bank account, and $85,000 is allocated to compensate John Pruitt for claimed physical injuries. (Id. ¶ 10, Ex. 1.) The remainder of the settlement amount is allocated for other claimed damages and injuries, claimed statutory attorney's fees, and costs and expenses incurred on behalf of plaintiffs. (Id. Ex. 1.) Attorney's fees will be adjusted downward to ensure that plaintiffs' counsel's compensation for representing the Pruitt children is less than 25% of the total amount attributable to the minor plaintiffs' recovery. (Id. ¶ 13.)

"It has long been established that the court in which a minor's claims are being litigated has a duty to protect the minor's interests." Salmeron v. United States, 724 F.2d 1357, 1363 (9th Cir. 1983). "In the context of proposed settlements in suits involving minor plaintiffs, this special duty requires a district court to 'conduct its own inquiry to determine whether the settlement serves the best interests of the minor.'" Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Dacanay v. Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 1978)); see also E.D. Local R. 202(b) ("No claim by or against a minor or incompetent person may be settled or compromised absent an order by the Court approving the settlement or compromise."). In reviewing a proposed settlement, district courts can consider "whether the net amount distributed to each minor plaintiff in the settlement is fair and reasonable, in light of the facts of the case, the minor's specific claim, and recovery in similar cases." Robidoux, 638 F.3d at 1182.

Having reviewed the proposed settlement and the declarations of counsel and John Pruitt, the court concludes that the proposed settlement is fair and reasonable.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion for approval of minors' compromise be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED.

20110831

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