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Garlick v. County of Kern

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 2, 2016

TARA GARLICK, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF KERN, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS GRANTING APPROVAL OF THE COMPROMISE ON BEHALF OF MINOR PLAINTIFF J.S. (Doc. 248) ORDER VACATING THE HEARING DATE

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter arises out of the death of David Silva which, it is claimed, was caused by the application of excessive and unreasonable use of force by various law enforcement officers. J.S. is a surviving child of the decedent. She seeks approval of the settlement reached with Defendants, by and through her mother/guardian ad litem Adriane Dominguez. (Doc. 248) For the following reasons, the Court recommends the motion for approval of the settlement be GRANTED.[1]

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         The plaintiff initiated this action, alleging Defendants are responsible for the wrongful death of David Silva, who was the boyfriend of Plaintiff Tara Garlick, the father of the minor plaintiffs, and the son of Plaintiffs Merri and Salvador Silva. (See generally Docs. 2, 78) The plaintiffs asserted eleven causes of action in the Second Amended Complaint: (1) unlawful arrest/detention in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (3) denial of medical care in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (4) a violation of substantive due process; (5) municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (6) civil conspiracy-interference with civil rights; (7) civil conspiracy-witness intimidation, spoliation of evidence, obstruction of justice; (8) false arrest/false imprisonment; failure to train; (9) battery (wrongful death); (10) negligence (wrongful death); and (11) a violation of the Bane Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1.

         II. Settlement Approval Standards

         No settlement or compromise of “a claim by or against a minor or incompetent person” is effective unless it is approved by the Court. Local Rule 202(b). The purpose of requiring the Court’s approval is to provide an additional level of oversight to ensure that the child’s interests are protected. Toward this end, a party seeking approval of the settlement must disclose:

the age and sex of the minor, the nature of the causes of action to be settled or compromised, the facts and circumstances out of which the causes of action arose, including the time, place and persons involved, the manner in which the compromise amount . . . was determined, including such additional information as may be required to enable the Court to determine the fairness of the settlement or compromise, and, if a personal injury claim, the nature and extent of the injury with sufficient particularity to inform the Court whether the injury is temporary or permanent.

Local Rule 202(b)(2).

         The Ninth Circuit determined that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c) imposes on the Court the responsibility to safeguard the interests of child-litigants. Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011). Thus, the Court is obligated to independently investigate the fairness of the settlement even where the parent has recommended it. Id., at 1181; see also Salmeron v. United States, 724 F.2d 1357, 1363 (9th Cir. 1983) (holding that “a court must independently investigate and evaluate any compromise or settlement of a minor’s claims to assure itself that the minor’s interests are protected, even if the settlement has been recommended or negotiated by the minor’s parent or guardian ad litem”). Rather than focusing on the amount of fees to be awarded, the Court must evaluate whether the net amount to the child is fair and reasonable “without regard to the proportion of the total settlement value designated for adult co-plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ counsel” and “in light of the facts of the case, the minor’s specific claim, and recovery in similar cases.” Robidoux, 638 F.3d at 1181-1182.

         III. Discussion and Analysis

         The petition for approval of the settlement reached on behalf of the child J.S. sets forth the information required by Local Rule 202(b)(2). J.S. is 15 years old. (Doc. 248-1 at 2) J.S. resides with her mother. (Id.) Ms. Dominguez asserts that the child’s damages arise from the death of her father and the resulting loss of the paternal relationship. (Doc. 248-1 at 2) The Defendants have agreed to pay J.S. $180, 000. Id.

         A. Award to J.S.

         The settlement funds will be paid by the County of Kern, in the amount og $158, 400 and the State of California, in the amount of $21, 600. (Doc. 248-1 at 2) After the payment of the proposed attorney fees and costs, the child will receive $132, 000 from the settlement. (Doc. 248-1 at 2) The money will be deposited in an interest-bearing blocked trust account at an FDIC insured banking institution for the child’s benefit. Id. at 2-3. However, at the time of payment, $10, 793.98 will be paid immediately to Ms. Dominguez to provide her daughter a laptop, ballet lessons and to pay for orthodontia services. Id. at 3.

         B. Proposed ...


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