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Sykes v. Shea

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 22, 2018

TYESHINA SYKES, an individual; and J.S., by and through her guardian ad litem JOHNNY NASH, in individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
DONALD JAMES SHEA, in individual; KUNKEL TRUCK LINES, INC., a South Dakota Corporation; and DOES 1-30, Defendants.

          ORDER RE: MOTION TO APPROVE MINOR'S COMPROMISE

          WILLIAM B. SHUBB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Tyeshina Sykes (“Sykes”) initiated this action on behalf of herself and J.S., a minor, against defendants Donald James Shea (“Shea”) and Kunkel Trucking, Inc. (“Kunkel”) alleging negligence based personal injury claims related to a motor vehicle collision involving a truck driven by Shea and owned by Kunkel. Johnny Nash was appointed as guardian ad litem for J.S. Presently before the court is J.S.'s petition for approval of minor's compromise. (Docket No. 61.)

         Under Eastern District of California's Local Rules, the court must approve the settlement of the claims of a minor. E.D. Cal. L.R. 202(b). The party moving for approval of the settlement must provide the court “such . . . information as may be required to enable the Court to determine the fairness of the settlement or compromise.” Id. at L.R. 202(b)(2); see also Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1179 (9th Cir. 2011) (district court has a duty “to safeguard the interests of minor plaintiffs” that requires it to “determine whether the net amount distributed to each minor plaintiff in the proposed settlement is fair and reasonable”).

         In Robidoux, the Ninth Circuit specifically instructed district courts to “limit the scope of their review to the question whether the net amount distributed to [a] 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 1181. Although the Robidoux court expressly limited its holding to a minor's federal claims, 638 F.3d at 1179 n.2, district courts have also applied this rule in the context of a minor's state law claims. See, e.g., Frary v. County of Marin, Civ. No. 12-3928-MEJ, 2015 WL 575818, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 10, 2015).

         The Local Rules require that in actions in which the minor is represented by an appointed representative pursuant to state law, the settlement must first be approved by the state court having jurisdiction over the personal representative. E.D. Cal. Local R. 202(b)(1). Here, the court notes that the Settlement Agreement at issue was first approved by the Honorable Judge Russell L. Hom of the Sacramento Superior Court. (See Mot. for Approval (Docket No. 61) at 2.) To require evaluation of the same Settlement Agreement under two different standards strikes this court as both unfair and likely to result in incongruous results. Primerica Life Ins. Co. v. Cassie, Civ. No. 2:12-1570 WBS, 2013 WL 1705033, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 19, 2013). Additionally, defendants did not submit an opposition at the hearing before the Sacramento Superior Court, nor have they opposed this Motion.

         The settlement will result in the payment of $87, 500 to J.S. J.S.' attorneys intend to take 25%, or $21, 875.00, of J.S.' settlement as payment for their services. It “has been the practice in the Eastern District of California to consider 25% of the recovery as the benchmark for attorney's fees in contingency cases involving minors.” See Chance v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., Civ. No. 1:15-1889-DAD-JLT, 2016 WL 3538345, at *3 (E.D. Cal. June 29, 2016) (compiling cases). Thus, the portion of the total settlement allocated to attorney's fees in this case is reasonable under the circumstances.

         Based on all of these considerations, the court finds that the settlement is fair and reasonable and in the best interests of the minor child. See E.D. Cal. L.R. 202(b); see also Robidoux, 638 F.3d at 1179. Accordingly, the court will approve the settlement of J.S.' claims against defendants and will grant the petition for approval of minor's compromise.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff's Motion to Approve Minor's Compromise (Docket No. 61) be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that:

         1. The gross amount or value of the settlement or judgment in favor of plaintiff J.S. is $87, 500.00

         2. Fees and expenses shall be paid by one or more checks or drafts, drawn payable to the order of plaintiff's guardian ad litem Johnny Nash and plaintiffs' attorney, if any, or directly to third parties entitled to receive payment identified in this order for the following items of expenses or damages, which are hereby authorized to be paid out of the proceeds of the settlement or judgment:

(a) Attorney's fees in the total amount of $21, 875.00 payable to Banafsheh, Danesh, and Javid, P.C.;
(b) Reimbursement in the amount of $24, 275.90 for necessary costs incurred in the prosecution of this matter payable to Banafsheh, Danesh, and Javid, P.C.;
(c) Medical, hospital, ambulance, nursing and other expenses in the amount of $565.98 payable to Department of ...

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