Smith et al v. City of Montgomery et al
OPINION AND ORDER. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 10/28/2013. (jg, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
CAROLYN SMITH; ISAIAH
SMITH; ANTONIO HAIGLER;
and KANESHIA HAIGLER, as
guardian and next friend
of the minor, S.M.,
CITY OF MONTGOMERY,
ALABAMA; et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
Kaneshia Haigler, as guardian and next
friend of S.M., a minor, want to settle their claims
against defendant BSR Trust, LLC.
The other defendants
are the City of Montgomery, Alabama, and its police
officers Ferderdar Fannin, A.D. Ferguson, and Ronald
The plaintiffs have invoked the diversity-of-
citizenship jurisdiction of the court.
28 U.S.C. § 1332.
The question before this court is whether to approve the
settlement as to S.M., who is currently nine years old.
Based on the pleadings and the representations made to
court, the court will approve the settlement of S.M.’s
claims against BSR Trust.
Alabama law requires that a court hold a fairness
hearing before a minor plaintiff’s case may be settled.
Largo v. Hayes By and Through Nesbitt, 534 So.2d 1101,
1105 (Ala. 1988). This is a rule of substantive law,
Burke v. Smith, 252 F.3d 1260, 1266 (11th
In order for the settlement to be binding on the
investigation into the facts.’” Abernathy v. Colbert
Cnty. Hosp. Bd., 388 So. 2d 1207, 1209 (Ala. 1980)
42 Am.Jur.2d Infants § 47 (1978)).
This case arises from an incident on April 14, 2012,
at an apartment complex owned and operated by BSR Trust
where plaintiffs Carolyn Smith, Isaiah Smith and Antonio
police officers went to the apartment where the party was
These plaintiffs allege that Fannin used unreasonable and
excessive force to confront, subdue and arrest them.
S.M. alleges that Fannin sprayed pepper spray toward a
crowd and sprayed her.
S.M. further alleges this caused
her to suffer physical discomfort, pain and suffering,
mental anguish, and loss of personal dignity.
S.M. and the other plaintiffs allege that BSR Trust
is liable for negligent and wanton hiring, retention and
charges that BSR Trust should be liable for Fannin’s
actions because Fannin had a history of demonstrated
violent tendencies and BSR Trust nevertheless chose to
BSR Trust denies these allegations, including
the allegation that it employed Fannin or had knowledge
of any violent tendencies.
On September 6, 2013, the parties notified the court
of a settlement of all plaintiffs’ claims against BSR
Trust. The plaintiffs and BSR Trust agreed to settle
their claims for a total of $ 2,500, with each plaintiff
to receive $ 400 and with the remaining $ 900 paid to
contingency fee at the rate of 33 1/3 % (which would be
$ 833.33 here), plus costs.
On October 17, 2013, the court conducted an on-therecord fairness hearing to determine whether to approve
the settlement agreement between BSR Trust and S.M.
attendance were counsel for BSR Trust and newly retained
counsel for S.M.
Also present was S.M.’s mother.
The court has reviewed the pleadings in this case,
heard a detailed oral explanation of the positions of all
parties in open court, and is sufficiently familiar with
the background surrounding this action, including the
defenses raised by all defendants, including BSR Trust.
damages, so as to create substantial issues as to whether
the plaintiffs, including S.M., could recover against BSR
Trust for the alleged actions of Officer Fannin and, if
so, in what amount.
The court also heard from S.M.’s mother, who stated
that she believed the settlement is fair and in S.M.’s
best interests, particularly in light of the uncertainty
of liability on the part of BSR Trust.
Nevertheless, at the hearing, several aspects of the
settlement came to light that troubled the court. BSR
collected his attorney’s fees before the court was even
notified of the settlement. This put the court in the
difficult position of evaluating a fait accompli--the
money was already spent and the attorney’s fees already
taken out of the total settlement. The duty to seek court
approval for a minor plaintiff’s settlement falls on both
parties. In fact, it is in the defendant’s interest to
settlement is not binding on the minor plaintiff; she can
bring the claims again in another suit.
Despite these deeply troubling procedural flaws, the
mother, that the terms and provisions of this settlement
are understood and agreed to by all parties. Based on the
record and testimony before this court, as set forth in
this order, the court finds that all the terms of the
proposed settlement are in the best interests of the
minor child and are fair, just, and reasonable under the
circumstances involved in this case.
It is accordingly ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that
the settlement between plaintiff Kaneshia Haigler, as
guardian and next friend of S.M., a minor, and defendant
BSR Trust, LLC, is approved.
DONE, this the 28th day of October, 2013.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?