United States District Court, D. Kansas
SHAWN BREINER, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ALICIA BREINER, DECEASED, SHAWN BREINER AND ARYONA BREINER, IN THEIR OWN BEHALF AND ON BEHALF OF THE HEIRS OF ALICIA BREINER, DECEASED, Plaintiffs,
THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, OF THE COUNTY OF CRAWFORD; CRAWFORD COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH CENTER; RICHARD H. PFEIFFER; GREGORY JAMES PEAK; CALVIN LEE JAMESON; SARAH JANE PITTS; AND MICHELLE ANN YORK; ALL IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, Defendants,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. Melgren United States District Judge
9, 2019, the court held a hearing to consider approval of the
settlement agreement between plaintiffs Shawn Breiner and
Aryona Breiner (a minor child), and defendants The Board of
County Commissioners of the County of Crawford, Crawford
County Mental Health Center, Richard H. Pfeiffer, Gregory
James Peak, Calvin Lee Jameson, Sarah Jane Pitts, and
Michelle Ann York. Plaintiff Shawn Breiner appeared in person
and through counsel. Defendants appeared through counsel.
court used the substantive portion of the hearing to
“determine whether the [settlement] agreement is in the
minor's best interests” as required by Kansas law.
White v. Allied Mut. Ins. Co., 31 P.3d 328, 330
(Kan. App. 2001). The hearing was necessary because
plaintiffs' claims include those of a minor, and the
court “has a duty to protect the minor's
interests.” Midland Nat. Life Ins. Co. v.
Johnson-Marin, No. 08-1367-MLB, 2012 WL 3245471, at *4
(D. Kan. Aug. 9, 2012)(citing Thompson v. Maxwell
Land-Grant & R.R. Co., 168 U.S. 451, 463 (1897);
United States v. Reilly, 385 F.2d 225, 228 (10th
Cir. 1967)). When a settlement agreement settles a minor
child's claims, the court should “judicially
examine the facts-to determine whether the agreement [is]
reasonable and proper.” Mo. Pac. R.R. Co. v.
Lasca, 99 P. 616, 619 (Kan. 1909). Courts are urged
“to exercise extensive oversight, ensuring that the
injured minor's claims are not sold short by an agreed
settlement merely outlined as a ‘friendly'
hearing.” White, 31 P.3d at 330.
to the hearing, the court received and reviewed a copy of the
settlement agreement between the parties. The agreement
contemplates that the individually named defendants -
Pfeiffer, Peak, Jameson, Pitts, and York - are to be
dismissed from the matter with prejudice. The remaining
defendants have proposed a gross settlement with Plaintiffs
totaling $772, 500.00. The court conducted further inquiry
into the allocation of this settlement, including those
amounts to be used for the payment of litigation costs and
attorneys fees, which were not detailed within the settlement
agreement. Prior to the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel
provided a Statement on Requested Attorneys
the course of the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel indicated
that the total expenses incurred in this matter totaled $13,
880, and that the net settlement proceeds would thus total
$758, 620. The remaining proceeds are to be allocated as
follows: one-third ($253, 873) to Plaintiffs' attorneys,
one-third ($253, 873) to plaintiff Shawn Breiner, and the
remaining one-third ($253, 873) to minor plaintiff Aryona
Breiner. Plaintiffs' counsel indicated that the funds to
Aryona Breiner were to be placed within a restricted or
blocked account with a state or federally chartered financial
institution in accordance with the Kansas Uniform Transfers
to Minors Act, to be accessed by her upon reaching the age of
Shawn Breiner testified at the hearing that he is the
biological father of Aryona Breiner, and that he provides
financial care for her. Shawn Breiner testified that the
proceeds of the settlement received by him would go, in part,
to the financial support of Aryona Breiner until she reaches
the age of majority. Shawn Breiner further testified that he
believed settlement and resolution of this matter would be in
the best interests of the minor child. After considering the
testimony presented at the July 9, 2019 hearing, the court
determines that the settlement agreement is reasonable and
adequately protects Aryona Breiner's interests, and that
approval of the settlement agreement is in the best interest
of Aryona Breiner.
court is aware that a portion of the settlement proceeds are
to be provided by the Kansas Health Care Stabilization Fund.
In accordance with Kan. Stat. Ann. § 40-3410, the court
further finds that the settlement agreement is valid, just
court further finds that the litigation expenses incurred to
date are fair and reasonable, and that the attorney's
fees to be awarded are also fair and reasonable.
court further finds that the proposed allocation between the
Plaintiffs accurately reflects the loss sustained by the
heirs of Alicia Breiner.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED BY THE COURT THAT the
parties' settlement agreement is approved.
IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT the claims against
defendants Richard H. Pfeiffer, Gregory James Peak, Calvin
Lee Jameson, Sarah Jane Pitts, and Michelle Ann York are
hereby dismissed with prejudice.
IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT defendant Board of Crawford
Commissioners of Crawford County, Kansas' Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 8) is denied as moot.
IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT defendants Crawford County
Mental Health Center, Calvin Lee Jameson, Gregory James Peak,
Richard H. Pfeiffer, Sarah Jane Pitts, and Michelle Ann
York's Motion ...