United States District Court, N.D. California
J.R., a minor, by and through her parent and Guardian ad Litem, S. RINGER, and O.G., a minor, by and through his parent and Guardian ad Litem, A. VALDENEGRO, Plaintiffs,
LAKEPORT UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT; KELSEYVILLE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT; and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING PETITIONS FOR SETTLEMENT OF
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
minor plaintiffs petition through their guardians ad
litem for their settlements to be approved. To the
extent stated herein, plaintiffs' petitions are Granted.
case stems from the sexual assault of two minors. Prior
orders have detailed the facts alleged in the complaint (Dkt.
Nos. 53, 62). In brief, a student with a history of severe
behavioral problems, “Bully, ” sexually assaulted
a student with special needs, plaintiff O.G., repeatedly at a
middle school in the Lakeport Unified School District.
Plaintiff O.G.'s mother informed the school of the
assault, removed plaintiff O.G. from the school, and placed
plaintiff O.G. in a different middle school in the
Kelseyville Unified School District. Plaintiff O.G.'s
mother allegedly told the school in Kelseyville the reason
plaintiff O.G. had transferred and the name of Bully from
Lakeport. Plaintiff O.G. thrived in his new school. The
following year, Bully sexually assaulted plaintiff J.R. in
Lakeport. The school suspended Bully. He then eventually
transferred to the same school in Kelseyville where plaintiff
O.G. attended. Bully taunted and again sexually assaulted
lawsuit followed. Through their guardians ad litem,
plaintiffs O.G. and J.R. initiated this lawsuit on August 24,
2017, in state court in the County of Lake. In October 2018,
defendant Kelseyville Unified School District removed here
(Dkt. No. 1). Following Rule 12 practice, an order stayed
plaintiffs' state law claims because a legal question
existed as to whether plaintiffs' state law claims would
be barred under Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School
District v. Superior Court, 21 Cal.App. 5th 403 (2018),
vacated with direction to reconsider, 444 P.3d 665
(Cal. 2019). In brief, the California Court of Appeal will
determine whether plaintiffs were required to comply with
Lakeport Unified School District's claim presentation
requirement pursuant to Section 935(a) of the California
Government Code prior to filing suit. If the California Court
of Appeal answers this question in the affirmative,
plaintiffs' state law claims will be barred.
one federal claim survived Rule 12 practice, a claim under
Title IX alleged against both Kelseyville and Lakeport
Unified School Districts.
parties have now settled all claims. Plaintiff J.R. has filed
a petition for approval to receive $25, 000 from defendant
Lakeport and zero dollars from defendant Kelseyville (J.R.
never attended any school in Kelseyville). Plaintiff O.G. has
filed a petition for approval to receive $50, 000 from
defendant Lakeport and $60, 000 from defendant Kelseyville.
Plaintiff O.G.'s guardian ad litem, A.
Valdenegro, further requests that $17, 553 of plaintiff
O.G.'s settlement recovery be given directly to her
“to assist [p]laintiff O.G. with educational endeavors
and developmental disabilities” (Dkt. No. 98 at 5).
Plaintiffs' counsel also seek 25% of each settlement plus
expenses. After attorney's fees and expenses, the total
net recovery for plaintiff J.R. is $18, 209.43; the total net
recovery for plaintiff O.G. is $81, 939.62. This order
follows briefing, supplemental submissions, and oral
plaintiff under eighteen settles federal claims, a district
court must “ ‘conduct its own inquiry to
determine whether the settlement serves the best interests of
the minor.' ” Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638
F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Dacanay v.
Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 1978)). The
district judge must “limit the scope of their review to
the question 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.” Id. at 1081-82.
Importantly, the district judge 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. at 1182 (citing
Dacanay, 573 F.2d at 1078). This holding is expressly
limited to federal claims. Id. at 1179 n.2.
federal and state law claims are proposed for settlement
here. Our court of appeals has never decided how such a
mishmash of claims should be resolved. Other judges in this
district have taken the claims together and applied the
standard for federal claims. See, e.g., Parenti
v. Cty. of Monterey, No. 14-cv-05481-BLF, 2019 WL
1245145 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 18, 2019) (Judge Beth Labson
Freeman); Doe ex rel. Scott v. Gill, Nos. C 11-4759,
11-5009, 11-5083 CW, 2012 WL 1939612 (N.D. Cal. May 29, 2012)
(Judge Claudia Wilken). This order applies the aforementioned
standard to all claims.
order finds that the proposed settlements are adequate
because of the significant risk that there will be no
recovery in this case. First, the state law claims
remain stayed because plaintiffs' state law claims may
yet be barred completely. The risk that plaintiffs will never
recover on these claims remains. Second, as to the
lone federal claim at issue here, under Title IX, plaintiffs
must show that defendants had actual knowledge and acted with
deliberate indifference. These elements will be hard to prove
on the facts herein, if the parties are to be believed. These
representations will now be shown in detail.
J.R. admitted in deposition that Bully never said anything
sexual or profane to her. He would sometimes hug her, but she
never reported any of these hugs. Five times, Bully's
hand briefly brushed against her bottom when he walked behind
her. Bully also rubbed his fist on the top of J.R.'s head
approximately five times during science class. Once,
Bully's hand brushed across J.R.'s breasts as the two
of them walked past each other. J.R. advised the school of
the brush against her breast, the school suspended Bully, and
he never returned to school with J.R. She has ...