United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. CRABTREE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on plaintiff T.Y.'s Motion for
Approval of Minor's Settlement and Distribution of Net
Proceeds (Doc. 54). The court applied Kansas substantive law
to evaluate the settlement agreement on minor P.Y.'s
behalf and held a hearing on the Motion on November 20, 2019.
See Doc. 59. For reasons explained below, the court
grants the motion to approve the settlement agreement on the
Amended Complaint (Doc. 18) asserted four claims against
defendants Shawnee Mission School District USD 512, Jim
Hinson, Jeremy McDonell, Jade Peters, and Craig Denny-claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Doc. 18 at 19-32.
On defendants' motion, the court dismissed Count Three of
the Amended Complaint. Doc. 27 at 28. On April 29, 2019, the
parties reported that they had negotiated a settlement and
mutual release resolving the remaining claims. Doc. 54. Their
agreement, which plaintiff presented at the settlement
approval hearing, stipulates that plaintiff will release
“any and all claims, appeals, demands, obligations
actions, causes of actions, rights, judgments, damages,
costs, losses or services, expenses, and compensation of any
nature whatsoever . . . whether based in tort, contractor, or
any other theory of recovery . . . in any way arising out of
events occurring during [P.Y.'s] term as a student in the
Shawnee Mission School District.” Exhibit 2 at 2.
Plaintiff's release applies to any claims that minor P.Y.
may bring, or be able to bring, once P.Y. reaches the age of
majority. In exchange, defendants will pay plaintiff $165,
000, on behalf of P.Y., “in full and complete
satisfaction of all claims which plaintiffs assert” or
could have asserted against defendants. Id. at 1.
court predicts that the Tenth Circuit would direct the court
to apply Kansas law when, as here, it exercises federal
question jurisdiction over a case involving a settlement on a
minor's behalf. 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 borrows Kansas's rule that a court
must conduct a hearing before approving a minor's
settlement. 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
November 20, 2019 hearing, the court received three exhibits
from the parties: (1) Petition and Application for Court
Approval of Minor's Settlement (Exhibit 1); (2)
Settlement Agreement and Release (Exhibit 2); and (3)
T.Y.'s bond secured through State Farm Insurance (Exhibit
3). The 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.Ct.App. 2001). Plaintiff asked the court to (1) approve
the settlement agreement and attorney's fees award, and
(2) seal the record of the case. The court analyzes each
request separately, below.
The Settlement Agreement
hearing, T.Y. testified that he believes it is in P.Y.'s
best interest to resolve her claims against defendants. And,
T.Y. testified, he believes the settlement is fair and
reasonable. T.Y. testified that continued exposure to the
litigation process would be damaging to P.Y. P.Y. was
diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and if P.Y. had
to endure the spotlight of trial and other legal proceedings,
T.Y. believes P.Y. would suffer significant setbacks in her
treatment. Because of these concerns, T.Y. had not discussed
the settlement with P.Y. T.Y. believes P.Y. will continue to
have medical and counseling expenses related to this
incident. He believes putting this money aside for P.Y. will
help P.Y. pay for those expenses when she is independent.
and counsel explained at the hearing, they believe it would
be in P.Y's best interest to focus on therapy and
treatment. Based on this assessment, plaintiff's counsel
reported, they decided that efforts to continue to litigate
the claims against defendants would not be worth the
increased risk of damage to P.Y's mental health.
consideration following the hearing, the court concluded that
it was not appropriate-in the context of this case-to approve
a settlement when the minor didn't know about the
settlement. P.Y. is nearing the age of majority status. In
the court's judgment, P.Y. likely could apprehend the
terms of the settlement, understand the way it affected her
legal rights, and meaningfully evaluate it. See
White, 31 P.3d at 330 (parent's consent to a
settlement isn't controlling). The court thus conducted a
telephone conference with counsel and shared its conclusion.
Counsel appropriately requested a chance to consider the
court's view, and submit a response. Now, plaintiff has
done so. Plaintiff filed P.Y.'s declaration under seal on
January 2, 2020. Doc. 64. In it, P.Y. declares that she knows
about the settlement and the terms of the settlement
agreement. Id. at 1. And, P.Y.'s declaration
reports that she “believes the settlement is fair and
reasonable” and asks the court to approve the
settlement agreement. Id. at 2.
on the efforts made by T.Y. and, indirectly, by
plaintiff's counsel to explain the settlement agreement
to T.Y. and P.Y., the testimony from T.Y. and plaintiff's
counsel at the November 20, 2019, hearing, and P.Y.'s
declaration, the court concludes that the settlement
agreement satisfies Kansas law governing approval of such
agreements. P.Y., through T.Y., brought a Title IX claim and
several § 1983 claims that plaintiff later concluded
were inadvisable to pursue. T.Y. agreed to settle P.Y.'s
claims to avoid placing P.Y. in the spotlight of trial and
possibly reversing years of progress in therapy. T.Y. also
testified that the settlement proceeds will be used only for
P.Y.'s benefit and likely will assist her with future