PETITION TO APPROVE COMPROMISE OF PENDING ACTION

MP: Petitioner Tecora Glass

RP: None

TENTATIVE RULING

Petitioner Tecora Glass’s petition to approve the compromise of pending action is DENIED for reasons including: (1) petitions must be filed for all minors, not just Ahmirah’s $61,000; (2) Petitioner fails to file all required documents, including MC-351 and MC-355; (3) Petitioner and her counsel must file declarations acknowledging that notice of the action has not been given to the State Director of Health Care Services and how that will be handled in the future.

Summary of Case

This is a habitability/premises liability action. On September 21, 2017, Plaintiffs Ahmirah Washington (“Ahmirah”), Ahmonie Washington, Ahmad Washington, Ahmir Washington, and Heaven Crain—all minors by and through their guardian ad litem, Tecora Glass (“Glass”)—filed this lawsuit against Leslie Wilson and Dolores Wilson, individually and as trustees of the Wilson Trust (collectively “Defendants”).

Plaintiff Glass leased a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in Los Angeles from the Wilson Trust (“Trust”). Plaintiffs contend that they were subjected to substandard living conditions during the tenancy, in addition to harassment, retaliatory action, and illegal rent increases.

Minor Amirah seeks relief for injuries she sustained during a stairwell fall caused by alleged unsafe conditions.

Plaintiffs claim a right to recover on the following theories:

C/A 1: Glass against Defendants for Breach of Contract

C/A 2: Plaintiffs against Defendants for Breach of Implied Warranty of Habitability

C/A 3: Plaintiffs against Defendants Breach of the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment

C/A 4: Glass against Defendants for Violation of L.A. Muni. Code § 151.04

C/A 5: Glass against Defendants for Violation of L.A. Muni. Code § 151.05

C/A 6: Plaintiffs against Defendants for Violation of L.A. Muni. Code § 151.09

C/A 7: Plaintiffs against Defendants for Violation of Civil Code § 1942.4

C/A 8: Plaintiffs against Defendants for Nuisance

C/A 9: Plaintiffs against Defendants for Negligence

C/A 10: Ahmirah against Defendants for Premises Liability

Defendant Dolores Wilson (“Dolores”) is a trustee of the trust. Dolores’ deceased husband, Defendant Leslie Wilson, was also a trustee prior to his passing. Plaintiffs dismissed their claims against Leslie Wilson after learning of his passing.

On March 22, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a notice of settlement.

On May 14, 2019, Plaintiff Glass filed this petition to approve compromise regarding Ahmirah’s settlement with Defendant for $61,000.

Minor/Claimant: Ahmirah Washington; Age 4; Female

Name of Guaridan Ad Litem/Petitioner: Tecora Glass

Name of Settling Defendant: Delores Wilson Trustee of the Wilson Trust

Total Settlement: $61,000.00

Apportionment: Minor: $34,144.66; Total Fees and Expenses: $26,855.34

Medical Expenses to be Paid from Settlement Proceeds: ($4,860.73)

Attorney Fees: ($20,333.00)—33 1/3 % of settlement

Costs:($1,661.61) 61% of the costs advanced, i.e., filing fee ($265.35),

service of process ($91.50), and deposition costs ($1,304.76)

California Rules of Court, rule 7.950, et seq., governs the procedures for court approval of a minor’s compromise under the Probate Code. The Application forms must properly state the age and sex of the minor, the nature and extent of the injuries, and the facts and circumstances out of which the injuries arose. Plaintiffs’ counsel must disclose his interest. Finally, the only remaining requirement is that the Petitioner and the Minors appear at the hearing, unless the Court dispenses with personal appearance.

Probate Code section 3600, et seq., governs how the settlement proceeds are to be paid. Per section 3601, the order shall approve payment of reasonable expenses from the settlement: “The court making the order or giving the judgment referred to in Section 3600, as a part thereof, shall make a further order authorizing and directing that such reasonable expenses (medical or otherwise and including reimbursement to a parent, guardian, or conservator), costs, and attorney’s fees, as the court shall approve and allow therein, shall be paid from the money or other property to be paid or delivered for the benefit of the minor or incompetent person.” And section 3602 sets forth how the remaining balance, after expenses, is to be disbursed—i.e., insured bank account, single-premium deferred annuity, trust revocable by minor at age 18, etc.

General Requirements – NOT OK

Petition on MC-350? YES

Proposed Order on MC-351? NO

Proof of Service on Other Parties? YES

Problems:

The Petition discusses two separate settlements—$61,000 to Ahmirah (based on premises liability/PI) and $39,000 to all Tecora Glass and the remaining minors. The MC-350 form indicates that the $39,000 settlement was “to settle claims arising out of the same incident or accident that resulted in the claimant’s injury.” Regardless, because the $39,000 settlement includes minors, petitions to confirm EACH minor compromises is required.

No MC-351 proposed order filed.

The Petition misspells Claimant’s last name as “Washingtonar.”

Type of Injury – ISSUES

Medical records documenting treatment? YES

Negotiated reduction in medical liens? NO

Injuries completely healed? YES

Problems:

Item 13(4) of the petition is checked off, stating Medi-Cal paid $4,860. Item 13(4)(d) is also checked off, which states that Petitioner is entitled to a reduction of the Medi-Cal lien under W&I Code section 14124.76, and requests that the court reserve jurisdiction over this issue. But no indication of negotiations being made.

The petition state notice of this claim or action has not been given to the State Director of Health Care Services. Per attachment 13B(4) provides: “All the information necessary to provide notice was not available at the time the suit was commenced. Petitioner intends to pay the claim of the Department of Health Services from the settlement amount.” Counsel’s declaration does not state such facts. And Petitioner does not file a declaration acknowledging this issue.

Handling of Funds – NOT OK

Disposal of Settlement Funds: YES

Form-355 Order to Deposit $ into Blocked Account? NO

Problems:

Per Item 19b(2) of the petition, $34,144.66 of the money will be deposited at the Bank of America (Wilshire Center Brach) at 3442 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, subject to withdrawal only upon the authorization of the court. But no MC-355 form filed.

Costs & Attorney’s Fees

Litigation costs requested? $1,661.61

Attorney’s Fees Requested? $20,333.00

Attorney Declaration? [CRC 7.955(b)[1]] YES

Copy of Retention Agreement? YES

Problems

In total, Plaintiffs recovered $100,000. Claimant Ahmirah settled for $61,000 and the other Plaintiffs settled for a total of $39,000. Counsel declares that he spent approximately 100 hours on this case, but the bulk of the time (more than 70%) was devoted to the minor claimant. (See Ogochukwu Onwaeze Decl., ¶ 6h.) Counsel declares the amount of the fee is 33 1/3% of the settlement to the minor. (See id., ¶ 6b.) Counsel provides a copy of the retainer agreement related to only one minor. Counsel, however, does not provide the retainer agreement for the Tecora Glass and the other minors’ claims. The amount Plaintiffs’ counsel will recover from the other Plaintiffs is pertinent in determining the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees.