United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
R. LEYVA, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
HOLLISTER SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.
ORDER APPROVING SETTLEMENT OF MINOR'S
LAB SON FREEMAN United States District Judge
R. Leyva and B.J., a minor, by and through his guardian ad
litem, petition the Court for an order approving the
parties' proposed settlement and of the minor's
compromise included therein. Mot., ECF 49. For the reasons
stated below, the Court GRANTS the motion.
B.J., by and through his guardian ad litem R.
Leyva (collectively “Plaintiffs”),
filed this action against Hollister School District (the
“District”), Karen Lopes, Elaine Klauer, Gary L.
McIntire, Dennis Kurtz, Jennifer Adamson, and Jane Bambrick,
alleging six causes of action: (1) violations of B.J.'s
constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violations of Title II
of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §
12101 et seq.; (3) violations of section 504 of the
Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (4)
negligent supervision; (5) negligent infliction of emotional
distress; and (6) violations of the Unruh Act. First Am.
Compl. (“FAC”), ECF 16.
a fourteen year old student who has been diagnosed with
autism. FAC ¶ 19. B.J. is mostly non-verbal and cannot
communicate his thoughts or needs. Id. ¶ 20.
B.J. entered into the seventh grade at Rancho San Justo
Middle School, a middle school in the District, during the
2012-2013 school year. Id. ¶ 21. B.J. was
placed in a classroom taught by Angela Draper, a special
education teacher. Id. Ms. Draper's classroom
was a special day class (“SDC”) for children with
moderate to severe disabilities. Id. ¶ 22. In
October 2012, the District completed a psycho-educational
assessment of B.J. Id. ¶ 23. The assessment
noted that B.J. was good at writing and coloring, could write
his first and last name, could fill in a number chart to 100,
and highlighted numerous other academic skills. Id.
In the area of group instruction, it was noted that B.J.
could “actively” participate in group instruction
for fifty minutes at a time, would participate in sing-along
in class, enjoyed looking at books during free time, and
enjoyed reading instruction when each student had his or her
own book to follow along. Id. In the area of
classroom routine, the assessment noted that B.J. had
“no” difficulty following the classroom
instruction or transitioning from one activity to another.
Id. In the area of self-help skills, the assessment
noted that B.J. could navigate the school campus without
difficulty, could get his own snack, use scissors to open a
container, throw away the trash, and eat without assistance.
Id. During the 2012-2013 school year, B.J. had few
behavioral issues in the school setting, and those he had
could easily be addressed. Id. ¶ 24.
August 2013, B.J. began eighth grade at the same school but
was placed in a new classroom. Id. ¶ 26. Near
the beginning of the school year, B.J. was removed from his
assigned SDC every morning about half an hour after the start
of the school day. Id. ¶ 27. Two aides then
escorted B.J. to a room known as the “pod room, ”
which adjoined his assigned classroom. Id. B.J. was
kept out of his assigned classroom for the remainder of the
day. Id. While in the pod room, B.J. was often
confined to a small narrow space known as his “pod,
” which the District had created for him. Id.
B.J. was the only student at the school that was placed in
the pod room. Id.
District staff assigned to work with B.J. in the “pod
room” was not appropriately trained. Id.
¶ 29. As such, B.J. was often restrained, forced into
the pod as a means of punishment, and subjected to physical
and emotional abuse. Id. The physical abuse resulted
in deep scratching and bruising on B.J.'s neck and other
parts of his body in addition to causing severe emotional
trauma and behavioral regression. Id.
February 24, 2015, Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit against
the District and various employees. ECF 1. After substantial
discovery, the parties reached an agreement resolving the
case. Shaw Decl. ¶ 5, ECF 49. The agreement was approved
by all governing boards on or about June 26, 2017.
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).
“Rule 17(c) provides, in relevant part, that a district
court ‘must appoint a guardian ad litem-or
issue another appropriate order-to protect a minor or
incompetent person who is unrepresented in an
action.'” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
17(c)). “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)).
cases involving the settlement of a minor's federal
claims, a district court must consider whether the proposed
settlement is fair and reasonable as to each minor plaintiff.
Id. at 1182. “[T]he district court should
evaluate the fairness of each minor plaintiff's net
recovery without regard to the proportion of the total
settlement value designated for adult co-plaintiffs or
plaintiffs' counsel-whose interests the district court
has no special duty to safeguard.” Id.
the Robidoux Court expressly limited its holding to
settlement of a minor's federal claims, “district
courts have found the Robidoux rule reasonable in
the context of state law claims and have applied the rule to
evaluate the propriety of a settlement of a minor's state
law claims as well.” Frary v. Cnty. of Marin,
Case No. 12-cv-03928, 2015 WL 3776402, at *1 (N.D. Cal. June
16, 2015); see also Mitchell v. Riverstone Residential
Grp., No. S-11-2202, 2013 WL 1680641, at *1 (E.D. Cal.
Apr. 17, 2013) (collecting cases). California law, which
governs the state law causes of action, also requires that a
settlement for a minor be approved by the court. See
Cal. Prob. Code § 3601; Cal. Fam. Code § 6602.
the proposed settlement, the District will pay $399, 000 to
the Plaintiff's attorney to be held in trust, and $139,
691.36 of that amount will be retained by Plaintiff's
counsel for costs and attorneys' fees. Shaw Decl. ¶
6. The $260, 307.64 of the sum remaining after deduction of
the attorneys' fees and costs will be deposited and held
in a special needs trust account. Id. ¶ 7. B.J.
will be the beneficiary of the account and R. Leyva will be
the custodian. Id. The fund will be used at parental
discretion for expenses related to future counseling,
therapy, educational and recreational purposes, ...