Christopher et al v. Douglas County School District et al

Filing 17

ORDER granting in accordance with this order Plaintiffs' ECF No. 11 Motion to Confirm Settlement. Signed by Judge Miranda M. Du on 4/5/2017. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - KR) (Main Document 17 replaced on 4/6/2017; NEF regenerated) (KR).

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1 2 3 4 5 ROBERT KILBY, ESQ. Nevada Bar No. 7402 LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT KILBY 1895 Plumas St., Suite 4 Reno, Nevada 89509 Telephone: (775) 337-6670 Facsimile: (775) 337-6652 Attorney for Plaintiffs 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 8 9 10 JOHN CHRISTOPHER, MARIKA CHRISTOPHER, and L.C., a minor by and through her guardians ad litem JOHN CHRISTOPHER and MARIKA CHRISTOPHER, Case No. 3:16-cv-567-MMD-WGC ORDER [PROPOSED] 11 Plaintiffs, 12 v. 13 14 DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, KATHLEEN GOHEEN, SUSAN LACEY, and DOES 1-30, 15 Defendants. 16 17 18 Before the court is plaintiffs John Christopher and Marika Christopher (“Christophers”) and L.C.’s, a minor, motion for order confirming settlement. ECF No. 11. Defendants Douglas County 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 School District (“DCSD”), Kathleen Goheen (“Goheen”), and Susan Lacey (“Lacey”) (collectively “Defendants”) filed a non-opposition to the motion. ECF No. 12. I. Facts and Procedural Background Plaintiff L.C. is a child with special needs, who attended Gene Scarselli Elementary School within the DCSD in the 2014-2015 school year. During said school year, L.C. was allegedly abused by Goheen. L.C. was assigned to Lacey’s special needs classroom for the 2015-2016 school year. During the 2015-2016 school year, L.C. was allegedly abused by Lacey on multiple occasions. 28 ____________________________________________________________________ Proposed Order Confirming Settlement of L.C. – Christopher, et al v. DCSD et al 1 1 On September 30, 2016, plaintiffs filed the underlying complaint against defendants 2 alleging seven causes of action: (1) excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. §:1983; (2) 3 discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (3) violation of § 504 4 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; (4) violation of NRS 651.090; (5) battery; (6) intentional 5 infliction of emotional distress; and (7) negligence. ECF No. 1. After the action was filed, the 6 parties agreed to settle plaintiffs’ claims for $150,000. Thereafter, plaintiffs filed the present 7 motion to confirm settlement. ECF No. 11. Defendants filed a non-opposition to said motion. 8 ECF No. 12. 9 II. 10 Discussion “District courts have a special duty, derived from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c), to 11 safeguard the interests of litigants who are minors.” Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 12 (9th Cir. 2011). “Rule 17(c) provides, in relevant part, that a district court ‘must appoint a 13 guardian ad litem—or issue another appropriate order—to protect minor or incompetent person 14 who is unrepresented in an action.”’ Id. (quoting FED.R.CIV.P. 17(c )). “In the context of 15 proposed settlements in suits involving minor plaintiffs, this special duty requires a district court to 16 ‘conduct its own inquiry to determine whether the settlement serves the best interests of the 17 minor.’” Id. (quoting Dacanay v. Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir.1978)). 18 As the Ninth Circuit has recently made clear, in cases involving the settlement of a minor’s 19 claims, district courts should “limit the scope of their review to the question whether the net 20 amount distributed to each minor plaintiff in the settlement is fair and reasonable, in light of the 21 facts of the case, the minor’s specific claim, and recovery in similar cases,” and should “evaluate 22 the fairness of each minor plaintiff’s net recovery without regard to the proportion of the total 23 settlement value designated for adult co-plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ counsel—whose interest to the 24 district court has no special duty to safeguard.” Id. At 1181-82 (citing Dacanay, 573 F.2d at 1078). 25 Here, L.C., through her guardians ad litem, has agreed to settle her claims against 26 defendants. According to the express terms of the settlement, defendants shall pay plaintiffs 27 $150,000 in exchange for the release of all claims. Plaintiffs’ counsel is set to receive 1/3 of the 28 total settlement as a contingent fee, calculated before the deduction of expenses, for a total fee ____________________________________________________________________ Proposed Order Confirming Settlement of L.C. – Christopher, et al v. DCSD et al 2 1 award of $40,000. After the deduction of fees and costs, the parties have agreed to allocate 2 $74,617.06 from the remaining net proceeds to L.C., through the creation of a special needs trust. 3 This amount constitutes 80% of the total net settlement, with the remaining 20% of net proceeds 4 going to the parents John Christopher and Marika Christopher for their own personal claims against 5 defendants. A copy of the proposed special needs trust is attached as an exhibit to the motion. 6 ECF No. 11, Exhibit A. The trust has been specifically drafted by John C. Smith of the John Smith 7 Law Firm, an estate planning attorney with a specialized focus on developing estate plans that 8 involve persons with disabilities. Id. 9 Upon consideration of the facts of the case, L.C.’s specific claims, the terms of the 10 settlement and recoveries in similar cases, the court finds the settlement to be in the best interest of 11 all of the parties, and specifically L.C., and that the amount of money L.C. will receive 12 ($74,617.06) for her claims is fair and reasonable. Accordingly, the court shall grant plaintiffs’ 13 motion as follows: 14 (1) 15 16 $150,000 is APPROVED; (2) (3) 19 20 The creation and funding of the Special Needs Trust attached as Exhibit A to plaintiffs’ motion is APPROVED; 17 18 The underling settlement between plaintiffs and defendants in the amount of Plaintiffs John Christopher and Marika Christopher, as guardians ad litem shall execute the Special Needs Trust for L.C. pursuant to the terms of that trust; (4) Venue for on-going oversight of the special needs trust established herein shall 21 lie with the Ninth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada in and for the 22 County of Douglas; 23 (5) the Special Needs Trust of plaintiff L.C.; 24 25 26 $74,617.06 in net proceeds for the settlement shall be allocated to and held within (6) Any trustee bond for the special needs trust shall be waived until such time as the funds of the Trust are released and made accessible to the Trustee; 27 28 ____________________________________________________________________ Proposed Order Confirming Settlement of L.C. – Christopher, et al v. DCSD et al 3 1 (7) Attorney’s fees in the amount of $1,500, shall be paid from the Special Needs Trust 2 to the John C. Smith of the John Smith Law Firm for preparation of the special 3 needs trust for the minor plaintiff. 4 5 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiffs’ motion to confirm settlement (ECF No. 11) is GRANTED in accordance with this order. 6 IT IS SO ORDERED 7 5th DATED this ____ day of April, 2017. 8 9 10 ___________________ MIRANDA M. DU UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ____________________________________________________________________ Proposed Order Confirming Settlement of L.C. – Christopher, et al v. DCSD et al 4

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