Molina, et al v. City of Visalia, et al

Filing 151

ORDER regarding allocation of settlement funds. Order signed by Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean on 10/17/2016. (Rooney, M)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 MOLINA et al., 12 13 14 Plaintiffs, Case No. 1:13-cv-01991-DAD-SAB ORDER REGARDING ALLOCATION OF SETTLEMENT FUNDS v. CITY OF VISALIA, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 I. BACKGROUND 17 On December 4, 2013, Plaintiffs Nicholas Chavez, Reynalda Molina, Jacqueline 18 Mendez-Madueña, G.M. (a minor), J.M. (a minor), and N.A.C. (a minor), by and through their 19 Guardian Ad Litem Veronica Ayon (“Plaintiffs”) filed a complaint against City of Visalia and 20 other Defendants related to the deaths of Edwardo Madueña and Ruben Molina . (ECF No. 1) 21 22 This Court, Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean, held a settlement conference on September 30, 2016, and the parties reached a contingent settlement agreement. (ECF No. 146) 23 The settlement agreement included two equal payments to (1) all Plaintiffs related to decedent 24 Ruben Molina, and (2) all Plaintiffs related to decedent Edwardo Madueña. The further 25 division of the proceeds among the Plaintiffs and attorneys was not determined at the 26 settlement conference, and is the subject of certain contractual agreements among the parties 27 and the attorneys. 28 1 1 During the hearing setting forth the settlement terms on the record, the parties requested 2 that this Court make a determination of how to divide the settlement proceeds among the four 3 Madueña Plaintiffs: Jacqueline Mendez-Madueña, G.M. (a minor), J.M. (a minor), and N.A.C. 4 (a minor). Attorneys for these Plaintiffs stated that they had a conflict of interest in 5 recommending a division among the parties because their attorneys’ fees varied based on the 6 allocation among these parties. The Court agreed to make a determination of the allocation and 7 invited confidential submissions from all interested parties. 8 9 10 The Court has received confidential submissions from Ms. Ayon, as guardian ad litem for the three minor children, Jaqueline Madueña, and attorney Charles P. Charlton. After consideration of those submissions and relevant law, the Court finds as follows. 11 II. DISCUSSION 12 Decedent Edwardo Madueña was survived by his wife, Jaqueline Madueña. Mr. and 13 Ms. Madueña had one living child together at the time of Mr. Madueña’s death: G.M. 14 Furthermore, Ms. Madueña was pregnant with their child, J.M., at the time of Mr. Madueña’s 15 death. Additionally, Mr. Madueña had one surviving child born out of wedlock, N.A.C. Ms. 16 Madueña currently cares for G.M. and J.M. Ms. Madueña has remarried and now lives with 17 her partner, Jaime Magaña, and has two additional children with him. Ms. Madueña states that 18 she has been getting assistance from Child Welfare Services. 19 20 Although not binding, this Court has looked at California Probate Code for guidance, which provides as follows: 21 22 23 24 25 (a) As to community property, the intestate share of the surviving spouse is the one-half of the community property that belongs to the decedent under Section 100. (b) As to quasi-community property, the intestate share of the surviving spouse is the one-half of the quasi-community property that belongs to the decedent under Section 101. 26 27 (c) As to separate property, the intestate share of the surviving spouse is as follows: 28 2 (1) The entire intestate estate if the decedent did not leave any surviving issue, parent, brother, sister, or issue of a deceased brother or sister. (2) 1 One-half of the intestate estate in the following cases: 2 3 (A) Where the decedent leaves only one child or the issue of one deceased child. 4 5 (B) Where the decedent leaves no issue, but leaves a parent or parents or their issue or the issue of either of them. 6 7 (3) One-third of the intestate estate in the following cases: 8 9 10 (A) Where the decedent leaves more than one child. (B) Where the decedent leaves one child and the issue of one or more deceased children. 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 (C) Where the decedent leaves issue of two or more deceased children. California Prob. Code, § 6401. Moreover, Separate Property is defined as: (1) All property owned by the person before marriage. (2) All property acquired by the person after marriage by gift, bequest, devise, or descent. (3) The rents, issues, and profits of the property described in this section. California Fam. Code, § 770. The Probate Code provides as follows regarding the portion of the estate not passing to 19 the surviving spouse: “To the issue of the decedent, the issue taking equally if they are all of 20 the same degree of kinship to the decedent.” Prob. Code, § 6402(a). 21 The Court finds that the provision in the Probate Code for Separate Property in the 22 event where a decedent leaves a spouse and more than one child is the most analogous 23 provision in this code. The allocation in the Probate Code for that situation is as follows: one 24 third to the spouse; the remaining two thirds divided equally among all three children. 25 While the Probate Code is merely guidance in this situation, the Court finds that it 26 provides a fair and reasonable allocation of the settlement proceeds. The settlement payment is 27 akin to separate property in that it arose after the marriage, and Ms. Madueña’s interest stems 28 from her marriage to the Decedent. The allocation as set forth in the Probate Code provides 3 1 substantial benefit to Ms. Madueña as the surviving spouse, who has lost the companionship of 2 her husband and continues to care for their two joint children. The allocation also provides 3 equal and substantial benefit to all three of Mr. Madueña’s children, at a smaller but 4 nevertheless substantial percentage as the allocation for Ms. Madueña herself. 5 Accordingly, the Court orders as follows: 6 The Settlement Proceeds due to Ms. Madueña and the three minor children shall be as 7 follows: 8 1/3 to Ms. Madueña 9 2/9 to J.M. 10 2/9 to G.M. 11 2/9 to N.A.C. 12 13 14 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: October 17, 2016 /s/ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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