United States District Court, D. Nevada
JOHN CHRISTOPHER, MARIKA CHRISTOPHER, and L.C., a minor by and through her guardians ad litem JOHN CHRISTOPHER and MARIKA CHRISTOPHER, Plaintiffs,
DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, KATHLEEN GOHEEN, SUSAN LACEY, and DOES 1-30, Defendants.
KILBY, ESQ. Nevada Bar No. 7402 LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT KILBY
Attorney for Plaintiffs
MIRANDA M. DU UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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 School District
(“DCSD”), Kathleen Goheen (“Goheen”),
and Susan Lacey (“Lacey”) (collectively
“Defendants”) filed a non-opposition to the
motion. ECF No. 12.
Facts and Procedural Background
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
September 30, 2016, plaintiffs filed the underlying complaint
against defendants alleging seven causes of action: (1)
excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. §:1983; (2)
discrimination in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (3) violation of §
504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; (4) violation of NRS
651.090; (5) battery; (6) intentional infliction of emotional
distress; and (7) negligence. ECF No. 1. After the action was
filed, the parties agreed to settle plaintiffs' claims
for $150, 000. Thereafter, plaintiffs filed the present
motion to confirm settlement. ECF No. 11. Defendants filed a
non-opposition to said motion. ECF No. 12.
courts have a special duty, derived from Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 17(c), to safeguard the interests of
litigants who are minors.” Robidoux v.
Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011).
“Rule 17(c) provides, in relevant part, that a district
court ‘must appoint a guardian ad litem-or issue
another appropriate order-to protect minor or incompetent
person who is unrepresented in an action.”'
Id. (quoting FED.R.CIV.P. 17(c)). “In the
context of proposed settlements in suits involving minor
plaintiffs, this special duty requires a district court to
‘conduct its own inquiry to determine whether the
settlement serves the best interests of the
minor.'” Id. (quoting Dacanay v.
Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir.1978)).
Ninth Circuit has recently made clear, in cases involving the
settlement of a minor's claims, district courts should
“limit the scope of their review to the question
whether the net amount distributed to each minor plaintiff in
the settlement is fair and reasonable, in light of the facts
of the case, the minor's specific claim, and recovery in
similar cases, ” and should “evaluate the
fairness of each minor plaintiff's net recovery without
regard to the proportion of the total settlement value
designated for adult co-plaintiffs or plaintiffs'
counsel-whose interest to the district court has no special
duty to safeguard.” Id. At 1181-82 (citing
Dacanay, 573 F.2d at 1078).
L.C., through her guardians ad litem, has agreed to settle
her claims against defendants. According to the express terms
of the settlement, defendants shall pay plaintiffs $150, 000
in exchange for the release of all claims. Plaintiffs'
counsel is set to receive 1/3 of the total settlement as a
contingent fee, calculated before the deduction of expenses,
for a total fee award of $40, 000. After the deduction of
fees and costs, the parties have agreed to allocate $74,
617.06 from the remaining net proceeds to L.C., through the
creation of a special needs trust. This amount constitutes
80% of the total net settlement, with the remaining 20% of
net proceeds going to the parents John Christopher and Marika
Christopher for their own personal claims against defendants.
A copy of the proposed special needs trust is attached as an
exhibit to the motion. ECF No. 11, Exhibit A. The trust has
been specifically drafted by John C. Smith of the John Smith
Law Firm, an estate planning attorney with a specialized
focus on developing estate plans that involve persons with
consideration of the facts of the case, L.C.'s specific
claims, the terms of the settlement and recoveries in similar
cases, the court finds the settlement to be in the best
interest of all of the parties, and specifically L.C., and
that the amount of money L.C. will receive ($74, 617.06) for
her claims is fair and reasonable. Accordingly, the court
shall grant plaintiffs' motion as follows:
(1) The underling settlement between plaintiffs and
defendants in the amount of $150, 000 is APPROVED;
(2) The creation and funding of the Special Needs Trust
attached as Exhibit A to plaintiffs' motion is APPROVED;
(3) Plaintiffs John Christopher and Marika Christopher, as
guardians ad litem shall execute the Special Needs Trust for