United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. CRABTREE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on plaintiff S.C. and defendant
Jacob Baker's Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement
Agreement Between Minor A.J. and Defendant Baker (Doc. 39).
The court applied Kansas substantive law to evaluate the
settlement agreement on minor A.J.'s behalf and held a
hearing on the parties' Motion on April 16, 2019.
See Doc. 49. For reasons explained below, the court
grants the parties' Joint Motion to approve their
settlement agreement on the minor litigant's behalf.
Complaint (Doc. 1) asserted just one claim against defendant
Baker-a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Doc.
1 at 10-13. On December 3, 2018, the parties reported that
they had negotiated a settlement and mutual release resolving
that claim. Doc. 40 at 1. Their agreement, which they have
attached to their papers in support of their Joint Motion,
stipulates that plaintiff will release “any and all
claims that are now or could have been asserted”
against defendant Baker in this suit. Doc. 40-3 at 2.
Plaintiff's release applies to any claims that minor
litigant A.J. may bring, or be able to bring, once she
reaches the age of majority. In exchange, defendant Baker
will release “any claim he may have to recover
attorney's fees and costs” from plaintiff.
Id. The parties also have attached to their briefing
Affidavits from S.C. and A.J. The Affidavits assert that S.C.
and A.J. understand the settlement agreement and its
consequences. See Docs. 40-1, 40-2.
explained in its April 10, 2019, Order setting the
parties' motion for hearing (Doc. 49), the court predicts
that the Tenth Circuit would apply Kansas law when exercising
federal question jurisdiction over a case involving a
settlement on a minor's behalf. See Doc. 49 at 2
(citing Nice v. Centennial Area Sch. Dist., 98
F.Supp.2d 665, 667-69 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (citing Reo v. U.S.
Postal Serv., 98 F.3d 73 (3d Cir. 1996))). The court
thus adopted Kansas's rule that a court must conduct a
hearing before approving a settlement. Id. (citing
Adkins v. TFI Family Servs., Inc., No.
13-2579-DDC-GLR, 2017 WL 4338269, at *3-4 (D. Kan. Sept. 29,
law requires courts “to exercise extensive oversight,
ensuring that the injured minor's claims are not sold
short by an agreed settlement merely outlined at a
‘friendly' hearing.” White v. Allied Mut.
Ins. Co., 31 P.3d 328, 330 (Kan.Ct.App. 2001). Courts
“‘may not simply rely on the fact that the
minor's parents have consented to the proposed agreement.
Instead, the court must determine whether the agreement is in
the minor's best interests.'” Id.
(quoting Baugh v. Baugh ex rel. Smith, 973 P.2d 202,
205 (Kan.Ct.App. 1999)). For example, the Kansas Supreme
Court upheld a state trial court's approval of a
settlement on a minor's behalf because “it engaged
in [a] full examination of [the] facts of [the] accident and
[the] extent of [the] minor's injuries.”
Id. (citing Perry v. Umberger, 65 P.2d 280
affidavit supporting the settlement agreement, SC asserts
that she believes it is in A.J.'s best interest to
“resolve and dismiss with prejudice Count
II”-plaintiff's § 1983 claim- against Mr.
Baker under the terms of the settlement agreement. Doc. 40-1
at 3. S.C. reaffirmed this belief during the April 16, 2019,
hearing on the agreement and added that she believes the
settlement is fair and reasonable. At the hearing, SC
testified that she had discussed the settlement agreement
with A.J. S.C. also testified that she had explained to A.J.
that A.J. cannot assert any claims that she brought, or could
have brought, against defendant Baker once she reaches the
age of majority. S.C. reported that A.J. agreed with the
terms of the settlement agreement. While A.J. has not yet
reached majority age, she is old enough to understand this
kind of explanation.
A.J. will receive no monetary or other tangible consideration
for releasing her claims, her counsel explained that
plaintiff and A.J. decided not to pursue the § 1983
claim against defendant Baker because they believed it would
prove unsuccessful. Based on this assessment, plaintiff's
counsel reported, they decided that discovery efforts related
to the claim against defendant Baker would not be worth the
risk of an adverse result. Plaintiff's counsel asserted
that he had explained the settlement agreement to S.C. And,
defendant Baker's counsel explained that he agreed to
release Baker's claims to recover discovery and briefing
costs he would have incurred had plaintiff chosen to pursue
her § 1983 claim against him.
on the efforts made by S.C. and, indirectly, by
plaintiff's counsel to explain the settlement agreement
to A.J., as well as the testimony from S.C. and the
parties' counsel at the April 16, 2019, hearing, the
court concludes that the settlement agreement satisfies
Kansas law governing approval of such agreements. A.J,
through S.C., brought a § 1983 claim that she later
concluded it was inadvisable to pursue. To avoid the
potential burden of discovery and exposure to a claim for pay
attorneys' fees, A.J. agreed to the settlement terms
after S.C. had explained them to her. The court finds that
the settlement agreement between plaintiff and defendant
Baker is in A.J.'s best interest. The court also
concludes that the mutual releases articulated in the
settlement agreement are fair and reasonable, given
plaintiff's evaluation of her § 1983 claim against
court thus grants the parties' Joint Motion for Approval
of Settlement Agreement Between Minor A.J. and Defendant
Baker (Doc. 39) and approves the agreement the parties have
memorialized in Doc. 40-3.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED BY THE COURT THAT plaintiff
S.C. and defendant Jacob Baker's Joint Motion for
Approval of Settlement Agreement Between Minor A.J. and
Defendant Baker (Doc. 39) is granted.