Carroll et al v. City of Las Vegas et al

Filing 185

REDACTED ORDER approving 177 and 179 the petition for approval of minors compromise and IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the settlement be implemented according to its terms, and as described above. Signed by Judge Cristina D. Silva on 3/27/2024. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - CT)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEVADA 2 3 4 Lisa Carroll, et al., Case No. 2:21-cv-00372-CDS-DJA Plaintiffs 5 v. 6 7 City of Las Vegas, et al., Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Petition for Approval of Minor’s Compromise for SMB [ECF Nos. 177, 179] Defendants 8 9 Plaintiffs Lisa Carroll, legal guardian on behalf of minors SMB and SFB (collectively, “the 10 11 minors”) and Marian Blue, as special administrator of the estate of her adult son, decedent 12 Stephen Burrell, sued defendants 1 City of Las Vegas and Wellpath, LLC under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 13 in relation to the alleged wrongful death of Stephen Burrell during his incarceration in the City 14 of Las Vegas Detention Center. Because SMB is a minor, plaintiffs filed a petition for approval of 15 minor’s compromise. ECF Nos. 177, 179. 2 Declarations from plaintiffs’ counsel Peter Goldstein 16 (ECF No. 179-5), legal guardian Lisa Carroll (ECF No. 179-6), and special administrator Marian 17 Blue (ECF No. 179-7) are attached. The petition is unopposed. Upon review of the papers 18 submitted, I find the amount to be reasonable and the settlement to be in the best interest of all 19 parties. Thus, I grant plaintiffs’ petition for compromise of minor’s claim. 20 21 22 23 24 Also named were defendants Danielle Davis, Francis Boddie-Small, Regina Elizondo, Michelle Fernandez, Ebony-Michelle Garner, Shawn Mapleton, Dee Morgan, Virgilio Padilla, Ashley Nicole 25 Phillips, Lovella A. Pongan, James Tenney, Nicole Ashley Thomson, Vicky Morgan, and Ashley Nicole 26 Phillips. 1 2 For ease of reference, I refer to the public redacted version (ECF No. 179) throughout this order. 1 I. Background 2 This case arose from the death of Stephen Burrell. In 2019, Burrell entered the City of Las 3 Vegas Detention Center where he was held as a pre-trial detainee following his arrest. ECF No. 4 56 at ¶¶ 1–3. During that time, Burrell was housed in an isolation cell where he ate little to no 5 food. Id. at ¶¶ 3–6. Without intervention by defendants, Burrell’s health deteriorated, and he 6 ultimately died. Id. at ¶¶ 5–7. Plaintiffs made a claim for damages as a result of actions related to 7 Burrell’s medical treatment. See generally id. The parties participated in a mediation which 8 resulted in a settlement. ECF No. 157. The legal guardian of Burrell’s two minor children, Lisa 9 Carroll, petitions for approval of the minor’s compromise of claims. ECF Nos. 179, 180. 10 II. Legal standard 11 It is well settled that courts have a special duty to safeguard the interests of litigants 12 who are minors in the context of settlements proposed in civil suits. Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 13 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011). This special duty “requires a district court to ‘conduct its own 14 inquiry to determine whether the settlement serves the best interests of the minor.’” Id. (quoting 15 Dacanay v. Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 1978)). 16 As the Ninth Circuit has made clear, in cases involving the settlement of a minor’s federal 17 claims, the district court should “limit the scope of their review to the question whether the net 18 amount distributed to each minor plaintiff in the settlement is fair and reasonable, in light of the 19 facts of the case, the minor’s specific claim, and recovery in similar cases,” and should “evaluate 20 the fairness of each minor plaintiff’s net recovery without regard to the proportion of the total 21 settlement value designated for adult co-plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ counsel—whose interests the 22 district court has no special duty to safeguard.” Id. at 1181–82 (citing Dacanay, 573 F.2d at 1078). 23 “So long as the net recovery to each minor plaintiff is fair and reasonable in light of their claims 24 and average recovery in similar cases, the district court should approve the settlement as 25 proposed by the parties.” Id. 26 2 1 III. Analysis 2 A. Proposed Settlement 3 Under the terms of the settlement, is to be distributed to SMB and his 4 attorney. ECF No. 179 at 2–3. After deducting 33.33% in attorneys’ fees and costs of $4,576.62, 5 the total net settlement to the minor is , to be paid into a structured settlement 6 annuity. Id. at 3–4. It is requested that, prior to the investment of the annuity, the amount of 7 be paid to Carroll to fund the minors’ orthodontic work, purchase sports equipment, 8 and pay travel expenses related to their traveling basketball team. Id. at 4; Carroll Decl., ECF No. 9 179 at 4; ECF No. 179-6 at ¶ 8. Carroll supports the proposed distribution of funds and believes 10 that it is in the best interest of the minors. Id. at ¶¶ 5, 7. 11 In determining whether to approve the settlement, the court must first consider the 12 outcome of similar cases to determine whether the sum to settle the minors’ claims is reasonable. 13 See Robidoux, 638 F.3d at 1181. Although the petitioner did not identify any similar actions to 14 support the approval of the minors’ compromise, I find the recovery is appropriate considering 15 those received by minors in other actions. The settlement here far exceeds the amounts awarded 16 to other minors who have suffered the loss of a parent during encounters with law enforcement. 17 See, e.g., Armstrong v. Dossey, 2013 WL 4676541, at *3–4 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 30, 2013) (approving 18 recovery of $22,500 for minor with close relationship with father and $11,000 to minor with 19 little to no relationship with father in Section 1983 and negligence case for failure to provide 20 medical treatment to minors’ incarcerated father); Swayzer v. City of San Jose, 2011 WL 3471217, at 21 *1 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 5, 2011) (approving minor’s compromise for net amount of $2,054.17 in action 22 involving alleged wrongful death of minor’s father during his arrest). Second, the requested 23 attorneys’ fees award is “reasonable in light of the signed contingency agreement and the early 24 resolution of this case, which prevented prolonged litigation costs and continued trauma of 25 rehashing the events underlying the suit.” Nephew v. Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, 2015 WL 26 5935337, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 13, 2015). Based on a review of the petition, together with the 3 1 exhibits attached thereto, I find that the settlement is reasonable, and the attorneys’ fees and 2 costs are reasonable and fair. 3 B. Method of Disbursement 4 The parties propose that the net settlement funds be placed in an income tax-free 5 structured settlement annuity for each minor through Pacific Life & Annuity Services. ECF No. 6 179-1. I have considered the structured annuity quote provided by Pacific Life & Annuity 7 Services and the disbursement chosen by Carroll. This method provides that the balance of the 8 settlement be placed in individual accounts for the minors with disbursements to be made over 9 a period of years. Id.; see also ECF No. 179-2. This annuity also provides the minor with 10 guaranteed lump sum payments of 11 22; at age 24; at age 18; at age 26; and 12 179 at 3–4. In total, SMB will receive guaranteed benefits of at age 20; at age at age 28. ECF Nos. 178 at 2–3; after the final payments 13 occur. Id. I find the method of disbursements to be fair, reasonable, and within the bounds of 14 applicable law. The annuities protect the minors as they provide that the bulk of the settlement 15 be released after they reach the age of majority. 16 IV. Conclusion 17 Based on the foregoing, the petition for approval of minor’s compromise [ECF Nos. 177, 18 179] is approved and IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the settlement be implemented according 19 to its terms, and as described above. 20 Dated: March 26, 2024 21 _________________________________ Cristina D. Silva United States District Judge 22 23 24 25 26 4

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