United States District Court, S.D. California
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO APPROVE MINORS'
COMPROMISE (ECF NO. 164)
Andrew G. Schopler United States Magistrate Judge
DeRuyver, plaintiff and guardian ad litem for minor
plaintiffs H.D., N.D., and Z.D., seeks an order approving a
proposed settlement of the minors' claims against
defendant. Because the settlement serves the minors' best
interests, the Court recommends that the motion be granted.
suit arises from allegations of negligence on the part of
defendant, a hotel in Carlsbad, California. While H.D. was
seated in a high chair at defendant's Bistro 65
restaurant, an Omni employee placed a carafe of hot coffee on
the table. (ECF No. 164, at 2.) The coffee spilled, resulting
in burns to H.D.'s left fingers, torso, and upper thighs.
case went to trial, and plaintiffs secured a total judgment
of $6, 028, 400.92. (Id. at 4.) Defendant then
appealed, and the parties reached a settlement while
participating in the Ninth Circuit's mediation program.
(Id.) The settlement agreement was provided to the
Court, along with the total settlement amount, the amounts
paid to the non-minor plaintiffs, and the amount paid to
plaintiffs' attorney. The net settlement amount, after
costs and fees, is $4, 041, 437.17. (Id. at 9.) H.D.
will receive $3, 493, 583.61, N.D. $85, 147.82, and Z.D. $68,
948.97. (Id.) These amounts reflect the proportions
of the overall settlement amount that were originally
approved by a jury at trial. (See ECF No. 167, at
5.) Christopher DeRuyver has been appointed conservator
regarding any proceeds from the settlement. (ECF No. 164, at
9.) He will invest those proceeds as ordered by the Washtenaw
County, Michigan Probate Court, and that court will retain
jurisdiction over the matter until each of the minors reaches
the age of majority. (Id. at 8-9.)
Review of Settlement
this court's Local Rules, “[n]o action by or on
behalf of a minor” may be settled “without court
order or judgment.” S.D. Cal. Local R. 17.1(a).
“All settlements and compromises must be reviewed by a
magistrate judge before any order of approval will
issue.” Id. A district court in this Circuit
must consider “whether the net amount distributed to
each minor plaintiff is fair and reasonable, in light of the
facts of the case, the minor's specific claim, and
recovery in similar cases.” Robidoux v.
Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1182 (9th Cir. 2011).
Ninth Circuit limited this holding to a minor's federal
claims, and did “not express a view on the proper
approach for a federal court to use when sitting in diversity
and approving the settlement of a minor's state law
claims.” Id. at 1179 n. 2. Because this case
involves only state negligence claims, this Court “will
continue to follow the practice of district courts in this
Circuit and apply California law” to evaluate the
settlement. Primerica Life Ins. Co. v. Cassie, No.
CIV 2:12-1570 WBS GGH, 2013 WL 1705033, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Apr.
of whether the Ninth Circuit or California standard applies,
this court finds the settlement and attorney's fees to be
fair and in the minors' best interests.
law requires a Court to approve the settlement of a claim
involving a minor. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 372; Cal.
Prob. Code §§ 3500, 3600, 3601. This is in keeping
with the “special duty” of district courts in
this Circuit to “safeguard the interests of litigants
who are minors.” Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638
F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011). In the settlement context,
that duty requires the court to “conduct its own
inquiry to determine whether the settlement serves the best
interests of the minor.” Id. (citations
reviewed the complaint and been privy to the parties'
briefing and discussions at the Early Neutral Evaluation and
Mandatory Settlement Conference, the Court is intimately
familiar with this case's facts and legal issues. With
that experience in mind, the Court recognizes that litigation
is always uncertain and concludes that the proposed
settlement is fair, reasonable, and in the minors' best
the minors' recovery in this case is reasonable in light
of those approved in similar cases. See, e.g., A. M. L.,
et al. v. Mirela Cernaianu, M.D., et al., No. LA
CV12-06082 JAK (RZx), 2014 WL 12588992, at *2, 5 (C.D. Cal.
Apr. 1, 2014) (approving a medical negligence settlement for
$1, 161, 587.32 where the minor sustained permanent brain
injuries during birth, ); Sykes v. Shea, et al., No.
16-2851 WBS GGH, 2018 WL 2335774, at *1-2 (E.D. Cal. May 23,
2018) (approving a negligence settlement for $87, 500, where
the minor sustained injuries in a car crash); E. J. v.
United States, No. ...