United States District Court, S.D. California
LUIS JESUS LOBATON, an individual; HEDY JULCA, an individual; DIEGO STEVEN LOBATON, an individual; and “B.C., ” a minor, by and through his mother and guardian ad litem, Hedy Julca Plaintiff,
CITY OF SAN DIEGO, a municipal corporation; NATHAN PARGA, an individual; KELVIN LUJAN, an individual; SAM EULER, an individual; ALI BAKHSHI, an individual; and DOES 1 through 200, inclusive. Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING PETITION OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR
COMPROMISE OF MINOR'S DISPUTED CLAIM [DKT. NO.
Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge.
the Court is the ex parte petition of Hedy Julca,
mother and court-appointed guardian ad litem of
minor Plaintiff B.C., for approval of the compromise of
B.C.'s disputed claim. Dkt. No. 42. United States
Magistrate Judge Burkhardt filed a Report and Recommendation
granting the petition. Dkt. No. 50. Based upon the
Court's review of the moving papers, the law, and for the
reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation and
GRANTS the Petition.
26, 2015, Plaintiffs, Hedy Julca (“Petitioner”),
and her children, Luis Jesus Lobaton (“Luis”),
Diego Steven Lobaton, and B.C. (“Plaintiff”),
commenced the instant action. Dkt. No. 1. The complaint
alleges that when Plaintiff was three years old, he witnessed
several San Diego police officers break into his family's
store and violently assault, handcuff, and forcibly take away
his mother and brother Luis. Dkt. No. 3 at 30. As a result,
Plaintiff B.C. suffered “serious emotional
distress” and asserted a negligent infliction of
emotional distress claim against Defendants. Id. at
weeks following the incident, Petitioner noticed that B.C.
had become “more dependent on her, ” “less
verbal, ” and fearful of the police. Dkt. No. 49 at 3.
“Because of these behavioral changes, ”
Petitioner took B.C. to counseling sessions approximately
three times per month for ten months, totaling twenty-seven
sessions. Id. The symptoms gradually resolved.
Id. B.C. “is now five years old, attending
school, and functioning normally for a boy his age.”
Dkt. No. 42 at 3.
August 27, 2015, Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick appointed
Petitioner as guardian ad litem for Plaintiff B.C.
Dkt. No. 8. On December 8, 2016, the parties reached a
settlement agreement at a settlement conference before
Magistrate Judge Louisa S. Porter. Dkt. No. 34.
April 25, 2017, Plaintiff's guardian ad litem
filed the instant Petition setting forth the terms of the
settlement and the intended distribution of the settlement
proceeds. Dkt. No. 42. Plaintiff B.C., through Petitioner,
has agreed to settle his claim against Defendants for a total
sum of $10, 000. Id. at 3. No costs or
attorney's fees will be deducted from the total amount to
be paid to B.C. Id. at 3; Dkt. No. 49 at 4.
Petitioner has indicated that she will not use B.C.'s
settlement earnings to pay for B.C.'s counseling
expenses, which totaled $3, 180. Id.
23, 2017, Plaintiff's guardian ad litem filed a
supplemental brief in support of the ex parte
petition, at the Magistrate Judge's request. Dkt. No. 49.
On May 26, 2017, Magistrate Judge Jill L. Burkhardt filed a
Report and Recommendation granting the Petition for the
compromise of the minor's disputed claim. Dkt. No. 50.
Civ. P. 17(c) provides that a district court “must
appoint a guardian ad litem-or issue another appropriate
order to protect a minor . . . who is unrepresented in an
action.” “District courts have a special duty,
derived from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c), to
safeguard the interests of litigants who are minors.”
Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir.
2011). “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.'” Id. (quoting Dacanay v.
Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 1978)); see
also Salmeron v. United States, 724 F.2d 1357, 1363 (9th
Cir. 1983) (“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”). Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 17.1, “[no]
action by or on behalf of a minor . . . will be settled,
compromised, voluntarily discontinued, dismissed or
terminated without court order or judgment.”
considering the fairness of a minor's state law
settlement, “federal courts generally require that
claims by minors . . . be settled in accordance with
applicable state law.” See O'Connell &
Stevenson, California Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure
Before Trial ¶ 15:138 (Cal. & 9th Cir. Eds. 2017).
“California law requires court approval of the fairness
and terms of the settlement.” Id. Under
California state law, the court is to evaluate the
reasonableness of the settlement and determine whether the
compromise is in the best interest of the minor. See
Espericueta v. Shewry, 164 Cal.App.4th 615, 617
(Cal.Ct.App. 2008); Anderson v. Latimer, 166
Cal.App.3d 667, 676 (Cal.Ct.App. 1985). Attorney fees to be
paid for representing the minor must also be approved by the
court. Cal. Fam. Code § 6602 (“A contract for
attorney's fees for services in litigation, made by or on
behalf of a minor, is void unless the contract is approved .
. . by the court in which the litigation is pending . . .
.”). The court has “broad power” to
“authorize payment from the settlement-to say who and
what will be paid from the minor's money-as well as
direct certain individuals to pay it.” Goldberg v.
Superior Court, 23 Cal.App.4th 1378, 1382 (Cal.Ct.App.
1994) (citing Cal. Prob. Code § 3601); see also
Cal. Civ. Code P. § 372 (“Money or property to be
paid or delivered pursuant to the order or judgment for the
benefit of a minor . . . shall be paid and delivered as
provided in Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 3600) of Part
8 of Division 4 of the Probate Code).
Ninth Circuit's decision in Robidoux set forth
guidelines for determining the reasonableness of a
minor's settlement. 638 F.3d at 1181-82. The
Robidoux court, which limited its holding to federal
law settlements, held that district courts are to
“limit the scope of their review” of settlements
involving minor plaintiffs “to the question of 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.” 638 F.3d at 1179, 1181-82
(brackets added). Although this Court is exercising
supplemental jurisdiction over a state law claim, the Court
nonetheless finds Robidoux persuasive insofar as it
provides a framework for evaluating the reasonableness and
fairness of Plaintiff's settlement.
the Petition and the supplemental brief filed in support of
it, the Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Jill L.
Burkhardt's conclusion that a settlement sum of $10, 000
is reasonable in light of the facts of the case, the cause of
action brought, and recoveries by similarly situated
was not directly involved in the incident that led to the
instant lawsuit against Defendants, but rather was a
bystander. As a bystander, Plaintiff alleges that he suffered
emotional injuries only, as a result of being present while
his mother and brother had the altercation with police. Dkt.
No. 42-1 at 3. After twenty-seven counseling sessions,
Plaintiff has made a full psychological recovery. Dkt. No. 49
at 3. ...