United States District Court, E.D. California
RODNEY CASTRO, Individually and as Co-Successors in Interest, et al., Plaintiffs,
STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., Defendant.
parents and children of plaintiffs' decedent Rodrick
Roman Castro, as individuals and co-successors in interest,
allege officers with the California Department of Corrections
and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) at Deuel Vocational
Institute failed to reasonably monitor and protect Rodrick
from other inmates, resulting in his murder. The parent
plaintiffs are Rodney Castro and Virginia Castro. The minor
children are R.A.C, through guardian ad litem Irene Coronado;
J. N.C., through guardian ad litem Erin Chavez; M.C., through
guardian ad litem Claudia Silva; and D.R.M., through guardian
ad litem Romie Martinez. Plaintiffs brought this action
against the State of California, CDCR, Scott Kernan, Kimberly
Seibel and CDCR Officer R. Adolfson for violations of various
federal and state laws. D.R.M. later dismissed his claims.
The parties have agreed to settle their claims. The minor
plaintiffs now move for court approval of the agreements. The
motions are unopposed. After hearing the motion and for the
reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS the motions.
J. N.C. and M.C. are the minor children of Rodrick Roman
Castro, referred to here as “Rodrick” to
distinguish him from other family members. Second Am. Compl.
(“SAC”) ¶¶ 4-6, ECF No. 26. Rodrick was
a prisoner at Deuel Vocational Institute (“DVI”),
a CDCR correctional facility located in Tracy, California.
Id. ¶¶ 9, 27. Rodrick allegedly suffered
from mental illness and disability that qualified him for
disability medical and mental health services in the state
prison system. Id. ¶ 28. The complaint alleges
that when Rodrick was transferred from Salinas Valley State
Prison to DVI, correctional officers and staff knew or should
have known he was at risk of violence due to his cooperation
in a criminal investigation. Id. ¶¶ 29-30.
On October 23, 2017, CDCR Officer R. Adolfson and other
correctional staff interviewed Rodrick about alleged drug
sales by Rodrick's former cell-mate at Salinas Valley
State Prison. Id. ¶ 32. Rodrick's cellmate,
inmate Martinez, was present at the interview. Id.
The following day, Martinez was escorted out of the cell,
leaving the cell open and Rodrick alone inside. Within
minutes, Rodrick was stabbed to death by other inmates.
Id. ¶ 33.
complaint alleges CDCR failed to adopt and implement policies
and practices to mitigate the risk to inmates who cooperate
in criminal investigations. Id. ¶¶ 29, 40.
The complaint further alleges CDCR officers had an obligation
to monitor surveillance cameras that showed suspect inmates
planning and orchestrating the attack the night of October
23, 2017, but failed to do so. Id. ¶¶
34-38. Supervisory correctional officers failed to ensure
their subordinates were properly performing their duties.
Id. ¶¶ 44-49. Plaintiffs allege these
supervisory failures constitute the denial of disability
accommodations to Rodrick. Id. ¶ 51. They also
allege the supervisory failures constitute deliberate
indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Id. ¶¶ 57-58.
parents, Rodney and Virginia, and his minor children R.A.C.,
J. N.C. and D.R.M., through their respective guardians ad
litem, brought suit on August 1, 2018, alleging two separate
violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (deliberate indifference
and supervisory liability), a violation of the ADA, a
violation of the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (Cal. Civ. Code
section 52.1), failure of prison officials to provide medical
care in violation of California Government Code section 845.6
and negligence. Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs amended their
complaint, dropping the Bane Act claim. See SAC.
Minor plaintiff D.R.M. stipulated to dismissal of all claims.
Stip. to Dismiss, ECF No. 32. The remaining parties
stipulated to the joinder of an additional minor plaintiff,
M.C. Stip. to Joinder, ECF No. 46. Now, the parties represent
that the case has settled and plaintiffs have filed this
motion for approval of a minor's compromise.
courts have a duty to protect the interests of minor or
incompetent litigants. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(2)
(requiring a district to “appoint a guardian ad
litem-or issue another appropriate order-to protect a minor
or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an
action”). This special duty requires a district court
to “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)); see also E.D. Cal. L. R.
202(b) (“No claim by or against a minor or incompetent
person may be settled or compromised absent an order by the
Court approving the settlement or compromise.”).
Ninth Circuit instructs district courts to “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.” Robidoux, 638 F.3d at 1181-82. This
requires the court to “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.
parties agreed to settle the claims of Rodney and Virginia
Castro and R.A.C., J. N.C. and M.C. for a total of $1, 900,
000.00. Mot., Ex. A, ECF No. 52-2. The minors' portion of
the settlement is $1, 500, 000.00. Id.
portion of the settlement, before attorneys' fees, is
$600, 000.00. Mot., Decl. of Alexis Galindo (“Galindo
Decl.”) ¶ 11, ECF No. 52-1. The law firm of Curd,
Galindo & Smith, LLP is requesting attorneys' fees of
25 percent. Id. After these fees are deducted,
R.A.C. is due $450, 000.00. Mot., Ex. A at 2, ECF No. 52-2.
The lump sum of $415, 000.00 will be annuitized through USAA
Annuity Services Corporation, to be disbursed tax-free to
R.A.C. between the ages of 18 and 30. Mot., Ex. B, ECF No.
52-3. The remaining $35, 000 will be distributed to his
guardian ad litem, Irene Coronado, as custodian for R.A.C.
under the California Uniform Transfer to Minors Act
(“UTMA”). Galindo Decl. ¶ 17.
Coronado, R.A.C.'s mother, would use some of the $35,
000.00 custodial payment to pay for R.A.C.'s dental and
orthodontic bills not covered by insurance. R.A.C. has been
diagnosed with epilepsy; the settlement will also pay
portions of his neurological medical bills not covered by
insurance. Another portion of the settlement would be used
for R.A.C. to go to summer basketball camp. Declaration of
Irene Coronado (“Coronado Decl.”), Ex. F, ECF No.
52-7. The larger annuitized portion of the settlement is
intended to provide funding for college, housing expenses,
graduation gifts, funds for business development on college
graduation, and eventually, funds for the purchase of a first
home. Ex. B; Coronado Decl.