M.F. v. Hayward Unified School District et al

Filing 25

Order by Hon. Richard Seeborg granting 24 Motion to Approve Settlement of Minor's Claims.(tmiS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/31/2017)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 M. F., et al., Case No. 16-cv-06409-RS Plaintiffs, 8 v. ORDER APPROVING SETTLEMENT OF MINOR'S CLAIMS 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 HAYWARD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants. 12 13 14 I. INTRODUCTION Last year, Stephanie Farraj filed suit against the Hayward Unified School District (“the 15 district”) and the Seneca Family of Agencies (“Seneca”), on behalf of her minor son, M.F., 16 alleging that defendants mistreated M.F. and failed to provide him with an appropriate public 17 education. Since then, the parties have engaged in formal settlement negotiations and reached an 18 agreement to resolve the minor’s claims. Farraj now moves for approval of that settlement. This 19 court has a duty to ensure the terms of the settlement serve M.F.’s best interest and are fair and 20 reasonable. Because the parties’ compromise satisfies those requirements, the motion for approval 21 is granted. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), this matter is suitable for disposition without oral 22 argument and the August 10, 2017 hearing is vacated. 23 24 II. BACKGROUND M.F. is a nine-year-old boy who suffers from attention deficit hyperactive disorder, mood 25 dysregulation disorder, and specific learning disorder. At age three, he was evaluated by the 26 district and deemed eligible for special education services based on his disabilities. The district 27 first placed M.F. in Building Blocks Therapeutic School, a school run by Seneca. M.F. was 28 enrolled there for kindergarten and first grade, during which time he was allegedly subjected to 1 damaging physical restraints on a regular basis. For second grade, the district placed M.F. at 2 Bowman Elementary School, a district elementary school with a Seneca-run therapeutic special 3 day class. According to plaintiffs, M.F. continued to be subjected to harmful restraints and other 4 mistreatment and harassment at Bowman. For third grade, M.F. was placed at Cherryland 5 Elementary School, where he again continued to be mistreated. Over the years, Farraj expressed 6 7 8 9 10 to the district her concerns over M.F.’s treatment. At one point, the district allegedly admitted to her that its employees had restrained M.F. not because it was appropriate, but because there were no rooms available for calming him down. In November 2016, after M.F.’s third grade year, Farraj filed this action. Through formal settlement negotiations, the parties have now reached a global settlement agreement and proposed release, which includes a significant payment into a trust for M.F.’s educational expenses. M.F. is 11 United States District Court Northern District of California currently involved in a positive academic program at one of the district’s schools, where he is 12 apparently making progress and being treated appropriately. 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 III. LEGAL STANDARD Federal Rule of Procedure 17(c) requires district courts to take special care to safeguard the interests of minor litigants. See Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011). When evaluating a proposed settlement of a minor’s claims, district courts must conduct an independent “inquiry to determine whether the settlement serves the best interests of the minor.” Id. (citation omitted). To that end, district courts must consider whether the proposed settlement is “fair and reasonable” as to each minor plaintiff. Id. IV. DISCUSSION In exchange for dismissal of this action, defendants have agreed to pay $78,000, the majority of which will be allocated to M.F.’s educational expenses. Specifically, Seneca and the district will pay $26,000 and $24,000 respectively into a trust account to provide for M.F.’s special educational needs. In addition, the district will pay M.F.’s attorneys $28,000 for their fees and costs. The proposed resolution will help ensure M.F. receives the special education services he needs. The attorney’s fees payment is reasonable in light of counsel’s representation that they 27 ORDER APPROVING MINOR’S COMPROMISE CASE NO. 16-cv-06409-RS 28 2 1 have assisted plaintiffs on a contingency basis and that their fees to date have exceeded $57,000. 2 The settlement thus reflects a fair and reasonable compromise intended for M.F.’s benefit. 3 V. CONCLUSION 4 The motion to approve settlement of M.F.’s claims is granted. 5 6 7 IT IS SO ORDERED. 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Dated: July 31, 2017 ______________________________________ RICHARD SEEBORG United States District Judge 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 ORDER APPROVING MINOR’S COMPROMISE CASE NO. 16-cv-06409-RS 28 3

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