Ledesma, et al. v. Kern County, et al.

Filing 79

ORDER Granting Plaintiffs' Petition for Approval of Minors' Compromise, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 1/6/2017. (The parties are directed to file a request for dismissal of this action no later than 2/27/2017.)(Gaumnitz, R)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 13 14 ADRIANA LEDESMA; JESSICA LEDESMA; MARISSA LEDESMA, by and through her guardian ad litem Raquel Sierra; RONNIE MATTHEW LEDESMA, by and through his guardian ad litem Christina Garcia; and CHRISTINA HERRERA, 15 16 17 18 19 20 Plaintiffs, No. 1:14-cv-01634-DAD-JLT ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS’ PETITION FOR APPROVAL OF MINORS’ COMPROMISE (Doc. No. 76) v. KERN COUNTY; KERN COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT; WARREN MARTIN; KARENA DELAGARZA; DWAYNE PERKINS; JAMES MELTON; and CHRISTOPHER WONG, Defendants. 21 22 Plaintiffs Marissa Ledesma and Ronnie Matthew Ledesma, minors by and through their 23 respective guardians ad litem, petition the court for an order approving a compromise of their 24 claims. (Doc. No. 76.) A hearing on the petition was held January 5, 2017. Attorney Benjamin 25 Meiselas appeared with and on behalf of the minor plaintiffs and their respective guardians ad 26 litem. Deputy County Counsel Andrew Thomson appeared on behalf of defendants. Having 27 considered plaintiffs’ requests and heard oral argument, and for the reasons set forth below, the 28 court grants the petition for minors’ compromise. 1 1 BACKGROUND 2 This case arises from an encounter between decedent Ronnie Ledesma, Jr. and several 3 deputies of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office on August 19, 2013, in Bakersfield, California. Mr. 4 Ledesma died eight days after the incident while in custody at Kern Medical Center. Plaintiffs, 5 decedent Ledesma’s successors in interest, brought this civil rights action alleging constitutional 6 violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state law civil rights and common law causes of 7 action. 8 9 Following an order on summary judgment and a settlement conference before the assigned magistrate judge, the parties agreed to and executed a written settlement agreement with respect 10 to all claims on December 5, 2016. (See Doc. Nos. 73, 76 at 2.) The total payment under the 11 settlement agreement is $1,000,000.00. (Doc. No. 76 at 4.) Of that amount, plaintiffs’ counsel 12 has agreed to recovery of $400,000.00 in attorney’s fees, representing 40% of the total payment 13 amount.1 (Doc. No. 76 at 4.) In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel will recover $31,710.72 in costs. 14 (Id.) The remaining $568,289.28 will be distributed among the five plaintiffs according to the 15 following criteria agreed to by the plaintiffs: (1) each plaintiff’s relationship, and the length of 16 that relationship, with the decedent; (2) each plaintiff’s level of involvement and time spent in 17 this litigation; (3) the time and expenses each plaintiff incurred in the preparation of the 18 decedent’s funeral and related matters; and (4) the relative strengths and weaknesses of each 19 plaintiff’s claims if the matter proceeded to trial. (Id. at 5.) Based on these factors, plaintiffs 20 agreed to the following allocations: 21  $173,657.85 to Adriana Ledesma 22  $173,657.85 to Jessica Ledesma 23  $83,657.86 to Ronnie Matthew Ledesma 24  $68,657.86 to Marissa Ledesma 25  $68,657.86 to Christina Herrera 26 27 28 1 Plaintiffs’ counsel notes that the 40% rate approximately reflects contingency fee rates of 45% for the three adult plaintiffs and 33% for the two minor plaintiffs. (Doc. No. 76-1 at 2.) At the hearing, plaintiffs’ counsel further noted that for the minor plaintiffs, the 33% contingency fee rate was reduced from the rate of 45% that was set forth in the retainer agreement. 2 1 (Id. at 5–6.) Plaintiffs Marissa Ledesma (age 15) and Ronnie Matthew Ledesma (age 4) now seek 2 court approval of their respective distributions of the settlement proceeds. 3 LEGAL STANDARD 4 This court has a duty to protect the interests of minors participating in litigation before it. 5 Salmeron v. United States, 724 F.2d 1357, 1363 (9th Cir. 1983). To carry out this duty, the court 6 must “conduct its own inquiry to determine whether the settlement serves the best interests of the 7 minor.” Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Dacanay v. 8 Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 1978)); see also Salmeron, 724 F.2d at 1363 (“[A] court 9 must independently investigate and evaluate any compromise or settlement of a minor’s claims to 10 assure itself that the minor’s interests are protected, even if the settlement has been recommended 11 or negotiated by the minor’s parent or guardian ad litem.” (citation omitted)). In examining the fairness of a settlement of a minor’s federal claims, the Ninth Circuit has 12 13 held that a district court’s inquiry should focus solely on “whether the net amount distributed to 14 each minor plaintiff in the settlement is fair and reasonable, in light of the facts of the case, the 15 minor’s specific claim, and recovery in similar cases.” Robidoux, 638 F.3d at 1181–82; see also 16 id. at 1179 n.2 (limiting the court’s holding to cases involving federal claims only). Where a 17 settlement involves state law claims, federal courts generally are guided by state law. See 18 Tashima & Wagstaffe, California Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial ¶ 15:138 19 (Cal. & 9th Cir. Eds. 2015) (“Federal courts generally require that claims by minors . . . be settled 20 in accordance with applicable state law. California law requires court approval of the fairness 21 and terms of the settlement.”). A settlement for a minor and attorney’s fees to represent a minor 22 must be approved by the court. Cal. Prob. Code § 3601; Cal. Fam. Code § 6602. Reasonable 23 expenses and court costs to be paid out of the settlement also must be approved by the court. Cal. 24 Prob. Code § 3601. Finally, the Local Rules of this court require disclosures regarding the minors 25 involved, the nature of the controversy, the manner in which the compromise was determined, 26 and whether a conflict of interest may exist between the minor and her attorney. See Local Rules 27 202(b)–(c). 28 ///// 3 1 2 DISCUSSION The proposed settlement agreement in this case provides that plaintiff Marissa Ledesma 3 will receive $68,657.86, and plaintiff Ronnie Matthew Ledesma will receive $83,657.86. At the 4 hearing on this matter, plaintiffs indicated that all named plaintiffs, including the minor plaintiffs 5 by and through their guardians ad litem, met privately outside the presence of their counsel to 6 arrive at a suitable agreement regarding the fair distribution of settlement proceeds. Furthermore, 7 at the hearing the minor plaintiffs, through their respective guardians ad litem, expressed their 8 satisfaction with the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, including the apportionment of 9 attorney’s fees with respect to counsel’s representation on their behalf. 10 Accordingly, having carefully reviewed plaintiffs’ submissions and having discussed this 11 matter at the hearing with the minor plaintiffs through their respective guardians ad litem, the 12 court finds that the proposed settlement, including the attorney’s fee rate, is fair and reasonable in 13 light of the facts and circumstances of this case and recoveries in similar cases. 14 CONCLUSION 15 For the reasons stated above, 16 1. The court grants plaintiffs’ petition for minors’ compromise (Doc. No. 76); 17 2. Plaintiff Marissa Ledesma, by and through her guardian ad litem Raquel Sierra, shall 18 a. Within fourteen days of receipt, deposit her settlement proceeds, in the net 19 amount of $68,657.86, in a blocked account at Kern Schools Federal Credit 20 Union, whereby such proceeds may only be withdrawn by Marissa Ledesma, 21 upon an order of this court or when she reaches the age of eighteen; and 22 b. Within fourteen days of the deposit, submit a proof of deposit to this court; 23 3. Plaintiff Ronnie Matthew Ledesma, by and through his guardian ad litem Christina 24 25 Garcia, shall a. Within fourteen days of receipt, deposit his settlement proceeds, in the net 26 amount of $83,657.86, in a blocked account at Kern Schools Federal Credit 27 Union, whereby such proceeds may only be withdrawn by Ronnie Matthew 28 Ledesma, upon an order of this court or when he reaches the age of eighteen; 4 1 and 2 3 b. Within fourteen days of the deposit, submit a proof of deposit to this court; and 4. The parties are directed to file a request for dismissal of this action no later than 4 5 6 February 27, 2017. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: January 6, 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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?