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Amalia Lucatero Perez, Individually and As Successor In Interest To the Estate of v. Ford Motor Company

January 23, 2012

AMALIA LUCATERO PEREZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO THE ESTATE OF
JACQUELINE SANCHEZ, FINDINGS AND DECEDENT;
ARNULFO SANCHEZ,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

RECOMMENDATIONS THAT FORD MOTOR COMPANY'S MOTION FOR DETERMINATION OF GOOD FAITH SETTLEMENT BE GRANTED (Docket No. 31) OBJECTIONS DUE: 10 days

I. INTRODUCTION

On December 21, 2011, Defendant Ford Motor Company ("Ford") filed a motion for determination of good faith settlement. (Doc. 31.) The court has reviewed the motion as well as the supporting documentation and finds that the matter is suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). Accordingly, the January 25, 2012, hearing is VACATED.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court RECOMMENDS that Ford's motion for determination of good faith settlement BE GRANTED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This action arises from an auto accident that occurred on August 29, 2009, involving a 1999 Ford Explorer driven by Plaintiff Amalia Lucatero Perez ("Amalia") and containing passengers Jacqueline Sanchez ("Jacqueline") and Arnulfo Sanchez ("Arnulfo"), Plaintiff's children. The accident occurred at 5:25 p.m., in the southbound lanes of State Route 99 in an unincorporated area of Stanislaus County, California. (Doc. 31-1, p. 2, 10.) The traffic collision report ("TCR") indicates that the left rear tire of the Ford Explorer ruptured, causing rapid tire deflation. (Doc. 31-1, p. 17.) Plaintiff applied the brakes and improperly turned the vehicle to the right, losing control. (Doc. 31-1, p. 17.) The vehicle traveled in a southwesterly direction, left the west roadway edge, and overturned. (Doc. 31-1, p. 17.) Amalia's daughter, Jacqueline, was ejected from the vehicle during the accident and died from injuries she sustained as a result. (Doc. 31-1, p. 14, 17.)

The TCR indicates that Amalia reported that she placed Jacqueline in her seat and attached her seatbelt. (Doc. 31-1, p. 11.) Amalia confirmed that Jacqueline's seatbelt was attached prior to entering the highway. (Doc. 31-1, p. 11.) However, Arnulfo and Amalia both reported to the investigating officer that Jacqueline had a habit of removing her seatbelt when traveling in the vehicle. (Doc. 31-1, p. 12.) Amalia reported that she often had to stop her vehicle to coax Jacqueline to secure her seatbelt before continuing. (Doc. 31-1, p. 12.) The TCR states that Jacqueline was not wearing her seatbelt restraint at the time she was ejected from the vehicle. (Doc. 31-1, p. 17.)

On April 23, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging claims against Ford and Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America, Ltd. ("Goodyear") for Strict Product Liability, and against all defendants (Ford, Goodyear, Jalo's Auto Sales #2, Raymundo Covarrubias, individually and dba Jalo's Auto Sales #2) for Negligence [Product Liability] and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress. Additionally, Plaintiffs sought punitive damages against defendant Ford only. On November 29, 2010, the action was removed to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship.*fn1

Following participation in voluntary mediation on November 10, 2011, Plaintiffs agreed to settle their claims against Ford. The settlement is contingent upon a determination of good faith settlement pursuant to the California Code of Civil Procedure. As a result, Ford filed a motion for determination of good faith settlement on December 21, 2011. (Doc. 31.) In conjunction with its motion for a determination of good faith settlement, Ford requested that the parties' settlement agreement be filed under seal; the Court granted Ford's request. (Doc. 33.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

A motion for good faith settlement is governed by California Code of Civil Procedure §§ 877 and 877.6, which apply to federal court diversity proceedings and authorize the Court to determine whether a settlement agreement was entered into in good faith.*fn2 See Slottow v. Am. Cas. Co. of Reading, Penn., 10 F.3d 1355 (9th Cir. 1993) (en banc). In relevant part, section 877 states as follows:

Where a release, dismissal with or without prejudice, or covenant 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-obligators mutually subject to contribution rights, it shall have the following effect:

(a) It shall not discharge any 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 ...


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