United States District Court, E.D. California
T.L., by and through his guardian ad litem KEISHA LAYNE, Plaintiff,
SOUTHERN KERN UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS GRANTING APPROVAL OF THE
COMPROMISE ON BEHALF OF MINOR PLAINTIFF T.L. (DOC.
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action, T.L., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem,
Keisha Layne, claimed injuries as a result being forced out
of his regular classroom and put on independent study for a
few months. The plaintiff seeks the Court's approval for
the settlement. (Doc. 37.) Because the Court finds the
proposed settlement of the child's claims to be fair and
reasonable, the Court recommends that the minor's
compromise be approved.
Factual and Procedural History
times relevant, T.L. was in general education fifth grade
class at his home school. (Doc. 16 at 4.) T.L. had an
individualized education program (IEP), which was supposed to
help T.L. with his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) and other mental impairments. (Id. at 4-5.)
On April 21, 2017, T.L. got into a physical altercation with
another student just after school ended. (Id. at 5.)
Southern Kern Unified School District (District) responded to
the incident by suspending T.L. and recommending that he be
expelled. (Id.) He was taken out of his regular
classroom at his home school and put into an independent
study program for only a fraction of the school day.
(Id.) During this time, he did not have interaction
with other school children. (Id. at 2.)
contested the District's action by filing a complaint
with the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH)
under IDEA and California's special education laws.
(Id. at 5.) After a hearing, the OAH issued a
decision in favor of T.L., finding that T.L.'s conduct
was a manifestation of his disabilities. (Id. at
5-6.) The OAH's decision also found that the
District's failure to follow T.L.'s IEP contributed
to and helped cause the incident and determined that the
District did not comply with IDEA requirements when making
the decision to remove T.L. from his regular home school.
(Id. at 6.)
April 24, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff's unopposed
motion for attorney's fees in the amount of $155, 925.00.
(Doc. 34.) Subsequently, in response to the parties reporting
that they have settled the claims remaining in the complaint,
the Court order Plaintiff to file a motion for approval of
minor's compromise. (Docs. 35, 36.) On June 24, 2019, the
Plaintiff filed a motion for approval of minor's
compromise. (Doc. 37.)
Settlement Approval Standards
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).
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.
Discussion and Analysis
petition for approval of the settlement reached on behalf of
the child T.L. sets forth the information required by Local
Rule 202(b)(2). T.L. is a minor, who is now thirteen years
old. (Doc. 37-3 at 1.) Keisha Layne is a single mother and
the primary caretaker of T.L. (Id. at 1-2.)
Plaintiff, through his guardian ad litem, asserts that the
child's damages arise from the few months he was forced
out of his regular classroom and put on independent study.
(Doc. 37-1 at 2.)