This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 09/26/2020 at 02:09:04 (UTC).

LILIA MARTINEZ ET AL VS LATHAM BELL ET AL

Case Summary

On 02/13/2018 LILIA MARTINEZ filed a Personal Injury - Motor Vehicle lawsuit against LATHAM BELL. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are YOLANDA OROZCO, LAURA A. SEIGLE and EDWARD B. MORETON. The case status is Other.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****4292

  • Filing Date:

    02/13/2018

  • Case Status:

    Other

  • Case Type:

    Personal Injury - Motor Vehicle

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

YOLANDA OROZCO

LAURA A. SEIGLE

EDWARD B. MORETON

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

MARTINEZ JULIO

MARTINEZ LILIA

Defendants and Respondents

BELL LATHAM

DOES 1 THROUGH 50 INCLUSIVE

LOS ANGELES COUNTY OF

LONG BEACH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

LONG BEACH CITY OF

LOS POTROS RESTAURANT

KIM CHONG U (DOE 11)

KIM JUNG S. (DOE 12)

ESTATE OF LATHAM BELL (DOE13)

KIM CHONG U DOE 11

ESTATE OF LATHAM BELL DOE13

KIM JUNG S. DOE 12

ESTATE OF LATHAM BELL

CITY OF LONG BEACH

COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

RAND MICHAEL J. ESQ.

ALDERLAW PC

PC ALDERLAW

ADLER ERWIN ELLERY

ALDER C MICHAEL

Defendant and Respondent Attorneys

MACHIT MONTE H. ESQ.

MCCUNE DANA JOHN ESQ

MACHIT MONTE H.ESQ.

WESIERSKI CHRISTOPHER PAUL

MACHIT MONTE HUGH ESQ.

 

Court Documents

Request for Dismissal

9/18/2020: Request for Dismissal

Request for Dismissal

7/28/2020: Request for Dismissal

Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF ENTIRE CASE) OF 05/12/2020

5/12/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF ENTIRE CASE) OF 05/12/2020

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF ENTIRE CASE)

5/12/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF ENTIRE CASE)

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

3/17/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

Jury Instructions

3/5/2020: Jury Instructions

Ex Parte Application - EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE TRIAL

11/4/2019: Ex Parte Application - EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE TRIAL

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO BIFURCATE THE LIABILITY AND DAMAGES PHAS...)

10/8/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO BIFURCATE THE LIABILITY AND DAMAGES PHAS...)

Notice of Ruling

9/13/2019: Notice of Ruling

Opposition - OPPOSITION TO BELL'S MOTION FOR GOOD FAITH SETTLEMENT DETERMINATION

8/7/2019: Opposition - OPPOSITION TO BELL'S MOTION FOR GOOD FAITH SETTLEMENT DETERMINATION

Request for Dismissal - REQUEST FOR DISMISSAL - PARTIAL, COMPLAINT, WITH PREJUDICE, AS TO LOS PORTOS RESTAURANT

6/21/2019: Request for Dismissal - REQUEST FOR DISMISSAL - PARTIAL, COMPLAINT, WITH PREJUDICE, AS TO LOS PORTOS RESTAURANT

Request for Judicial Notice

4/10/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Motion re: - Motion re: Motion to Amend Answer

1/15/2019: Motion re: - Motion re: Motion to Amend Answer

Answer

10/17/2018: Answer

1. NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO DISMISS AND FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS AGAINST PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL IPURSUANT TO CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 128.71 ECT.

6/13/2018: 1. NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO DISMISS AND FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS AGAINST PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL IPURSUANT TO CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 128.71 ECT.

Minute Order -

5/30/2018: Minute Order -

NOTICE OF ASSOCIATION OF COUNSEL

4/27/2018: NOTICE OF ASSOCIATION OF COUNSEL

Amendment to Complaint (Fictitious/Incorrect Name) -

2/22/2018: Amendment to Complaint (Fictitious/Incorrect Name) -

86 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 09/18/2020
  • DocketRequest for Dismissal; Filed by Julio Martinez (Plaintiff); Lilia Martinez (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/28/2020
  • DocketRequest for Dismissal; Filed by Julio Martinez (Plaintiff); Lilia Martinez (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/24/2020
  • DocketRequest for Dismissal; Filed by Long Beach Unified School District (Defendant)

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  • 06/22/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 27, Edward B. Moreton, Presiding; Trial Setting Conference - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 05/12/2020
  • Docketat 3:45 PM in Department 27, Edward B. Moreton, Presiding; Court Order

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  • 05/12/2020
  • DocketCertificate of Mailing for ((Court Order re: Notice of Settlement of Entire Case) of 05/12/2020); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/12/2020
  • DocketNotice of Settlement; Filed by Julio Martinez (Plaintiff); Lilia Martinez (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/12/2020
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Court Order re: Notice of Settlement of Entire Case)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/23/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 27, Edward B. Moreton, Presiding; Jury Trial - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 03/17/2020
  • Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 27, Edward B. Moreton, Presiding; Court Order

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138 More Docket Entries
  • 04/03/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 04/03/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 02/22/2018
  • DocketAmendment to Complaint; Filed by Julio Martinez (Plaintiff); Lilia Martinez (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/22/2018
  • DocketAmendment to Complaint (Fictitious Name)

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  • 02/22/2018
  • DocketAmendment to Complaint (Fictitious Name) Naming Doe 12

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  • 02/22/2018
  • DocketAmendment to Complaint (Fictitious Name)

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  • 02/22/2018
  • DocketAmendment to Complaint; Filed by Julio Martinez (Plaintiff); Lilia Martinez (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/13/2018
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Julio Martinez (Plaintiff); Lilia Martinez (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/13/2018
  • DocketComplaint

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  • 02/13/2018
  • DocketSummons; Filed by Julio Martinez (Plaintiff); Lilia Martinez (Plaintiff)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC694292    Hearing Date: November 21, 2019    Dept: 4B

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE: MOTION FOR GOOD FAITH SETTLEMENT DETERMINATION

INTRODUCTION

On February 13, 2018, Plaintiffs Lilia Martinez and Julio Martinez filed this action against Defendants Latham Bell and his estate, Long Beach Unified School District (“LBUSD”), City of Long Beach, County of Los Angeles, and Los Potros Restaurant asserting causes of action for negligence, premises liability, and loss of consortium. Plaintiffs dismissed City, County, and Los Potros. On May 22, 2018, Plaintiffs amended their complaint to add the Estate of Latham Bell (“Defendant Estate”) as a defendant.

On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff Lilia was standing outside Los Potros Restaurant near the outside seating area waiting to purchase food. Defendant Bell, a school teacher with LBUSD, caused the vehicle he was driving to enter onto the sidewalk and penetrate Los Potros Restaurant’s metal fence and other barriers. The vehicle hit Plaintiff Lilia, causing her bodily injuries. Plaintiffs were lawfully married and had lived together as husband and wife. Plaintiff Julio claims he has been and will be deprived of his wife’s consortium. Plaintiffs and Defendant Estate agreed to a settlement of $250,000 in exchange for a general release of all claims against Defendant Estate. Defendant Estate previously moved for a good faith settlement determination, which was denied for the reasons stated in an August 20, 2019 minute order. Defendant Estate filed a new motion for determination of good faith settlement. Defendant LBUSD opposes.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Court must approve any settlement entered into by less than all joint tortfeasors or co-obligors. (Code Civ. Proc., § 877.6.) This requirement furthers two sometimes-competing policies: (1) the equitable sharing of costs among the parties at fault, and (2) the encouragement of settlements. (Erreca’s v. Superior Court (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 1475, 1487.) If the settlement is made in good faith, the Court “shall bar any other joint tortfeasor or co-obligor from any further claims against the settling tortfeasor . . . for equitable comparative contribution, or partial or comparative indemnity, based on comparative negligence or comparative fault.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 877.6, subd. (c).) The non-settling tortfeasors or obligors bear the burden of demonstrating the absence of good faith in the settlement. (Code Civ. Proc., § 877.6, subd. (d).)

To demonstrate a lack of good faith, the non-settling party must show that the settlement is so far “out of the ballpark” as to be inconsistent with the equitable objectives of Section 877.6. (Nutrition Now, Inc. v. Superior Court (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 209, 213 (Nutrition).) The Court will typically consider: (1) the plaintiff’s (roughly) approximated total recovery; (2) the settlor’s share of liability; (3) the size of the settlement at issue; (4) the distribution of settlement proceeds among plaintiffs; (5) the usual discount value when parties settle before trial; the settlor’s financial condition and insurance policy limits; and (6) whether there is evidence of “collusion, fraud, or tortious conduct aimed to injure the interests of nonsettling defendants.” (Tech-Bilt, Inc. v. Woodward-Clyde & Associates (1985) 38 Cal.3d 488, 499.) These factors will be evaluated accordingly to what information is available at the time of settlement. (Ibid.)

“A determination as to the good faith of a settlement, within the meaning of section 877.6, necessarily requires the trial court to examine and weigh a number of relevant factors, one of the most important of which is the settling party’s proportionate liability. In making such examination, the court must look at the state of the evidence as it exists at the time the motion for a good faith determination is heard. [Citation.] If . . . there is no substantial evidence to support a critical assumption as to the nature and extent of a settling defendant’s liability, then a determination of good faith based upon such assumption is an abuse of discretion.” (Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc. v. Superior Court (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 864, 871; L.C. Rudd & Son, Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 742, 750 [“It is the burden of the settling parties to explain to the court and to all other parties the evidentiary basis for any allocations and valuations made sufficient to demonstrate that a reasonable allocation was made”].)

“[U]nder Tech-Bilt, supra, 38 Cal.3d 488, a vicariously or derivatively liable tortfeasor, like any other minimally culpable tortfeasor, is afforded substantial protection against harm from an unfair settlement between a more culpable tortfeasor and the plaintiff. If the more culpable tortfeasor settles with the plaintiff before the vicariously liable tortfeasor, and if the settlement does not require the more culpable tortfeasor to bear its fair share of the loss, the trial court can find that the settlement is not in good faith and, as a consequence, the settlement will not bar the less culpable tortfeasor from pursuing its equitable indemnity claim against the more culpable tortfeasor.” (Far West Financial Corp. v. D & S Co. (1988) 46 Cal.3d 796, 815.)

DISCUSSION

Defendant Estate argues the settlement is reasonable in light of Plaintiff Lilia’s alleged injuries – broken legs and ongoing pain – and Plaintiff Julio’s limited claim to loss of consortium. According to Plaintiff Lilia’s discovery responses, as of August 21, 2019, her Medi-Cal lien totaled $260,481.41. Defendant Estate contends the settlement was the result of arm’s length negotiations between counsel and the insurance carrier, and Bell’s automobile insurance policy has a limit of $250,000.00 per person and $500,000.00 per accident. (Rodriguez Decl., ¶¶ 8-9.) There have been two separate complaints filed against Bell and Defendant Estate as a result of this accident – this case and BC697051. (Rodriguez Decl., ¶ 8.) The settlement in this case represents half of the primary insurance policy limit held by Defendant Estate. Defendant Estate presents evidence that its assets are limited to one bank account with a total balance of $10,991.00. (Bell Decl., ¶ 5.)

Defendant LBUSD contends the $250,000 settlement is disproportionate to the potential damages because Plaintiff Lilia’s medical bills amount to almost $2 million, Lilia was much more seriously injured than Defendant Estate contends, and she continues to substantially treat for her injuries and has not returned to work, and she therefore will have a claim for lost wages. (Shirdel Decl., ¶¶ 3-6, Exhs. 2-3.) On August 5, 2019, Plaintiffs sent a demand for $5,000,000. (Shirdel Decl. ¶ 7, Exh. 4.) Defendant LBUSD argues that a settlement of $250,000 is 5% of that $5,000,000 demand and 13% of the $1,921,248.53 in medical expenses to date.

The Medi-Cal lien totaling $260,481.41 is evidence of the value of her current medical expenses. (Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc. (2011) 52 Cal.4th 541, 565.) Plaintiff Lilia’s $5,000,000 settlement demand is not evidence of her potential recovery at trial. Plaintiff Lilia states she has ongoing injuries, cannot work, and earned approximately $800 per month. The accident occurred about 31 months ago, meaning Plaintiff has lost about $24,800 in wages. Therefore, her potential recovery at trial, based on the currently available evidence is, at a minimum, $285,281.41. The $250,000 settlement covers most of that amount.

Defendant Estate argues under the doctrine of imminent peril, a jury could determine Bell was not negligent, thus relieving him of any liability. LBUSD argues its liability is co-extensive with Defendant Estate’s liability because LBUSD is only vicariously liable. LBUSD argues that if Bell is found liable, it would not fair to impose a greater share of the liability on LBUSD, which would only be liable because of Bell’s liability.

In Far West Financial Corp. v. D&S Co. (1988) 46 Cal.3d 796, the California Supreme Court addressed the issue of proportionate liability when a nonsettling defendant is vicariously liable for the acts of the settling defendant. “[E]ven when it is clear from the relationship of the settling and nonsettling defendants that the nonsettling defendant is vicariously or derivatively liable for the acts of the settling defendant, that factor alone still provides no assurance that a total shifting of loss is warranted under equitable indemnity principles. To begin with, there are many instances in which a defendant who is vicariously liable for another’s acts may also bear some direct responsibility for an accident, either on the basis of its own action – for example, the negligent hiring of an agent – or of its own inaction – for example, the failure to provide adequate supervision of the agent’s work.” (Id. at p. 812.) The Court discussed that even in cases of sole vicarious liability, a good faith settlement determination may still be appropriate and is not barred as a matter of law.

On the current record, the Court cannot make the determination that LBUSD’s liability is solely vicarious. The Complaint alleges the defendants were negligent “either through their own conduct, the conduct of their agents, servants, or employees, their training and supervision of their agents, servants, or employees, or due to their control, inspection, entrustment, maintenance, repair, ownership, possession or due to their use of instrumentalities causing the injuries or damages herein complained of.” (Compl., ¶ 6.) Plaintiffs thus alleged that LBUSD is liable not just vicariously, but also through its training and supervision of Bell (assuming Bell is found to be an agent or employee of LBUSD). LBUSD submitted no evidence that its liability is solely vicarious. It simply asserted that position in its argument. Thus, LBUSD may share some part of the liability, apart from vicarious liability.

The evidence shows that Defendant Estate’s only asset other than the insurance policy is a bank account with a balance of $10,991. Especially because Bell is deceased, there can be no expectation that his estate will ever obtain more assets in the future. LBUSD requests a continuance to take discovery of Defendant Estate’s assets. But LBUSD has known since at least July 9, 2019, when the first motion for good faith settlement determination was filed, that the issue of Defendant Estate’s assets would be relevant. LBUSD has not shown it has taken any steps in the last four months to take any such discovery.

There is no evidence of collusion, fraud, or tortious conduct aimed to injure the interests of nonsettling defendants.

Given the amount of Plaintiff’s approximated total recovery based on the current evidence, that both Defendant Estate and LBUSD may be liable, Defendant Estate’s lack of any assets other than the insurance policy, and the usual discount value when parties settle before trial, the Court concludes the settlement is not so far “out of the ballpark” as to be inconsistent with the equitable objectives of section 877.6. (Abbott Ford, Inc. v. Superior Court (1987) 43 Cal.3d 858, 874.)

Accordingly, the Motion for determination of good faith settlement is GRANTED. The Court finds this settlement was made in good faith and any other joint tortfeasor or co-obligor is barred from asserting further claims against Defendant Estate for equitable comparative contribution, or partial or comparative indemnity, based on comparative negligence or comparative fault.

Moving party to give notice.

Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the Court at SSCDEPT4B@lacourt.org indicating intention to submit on the tentative.