Judge: Daniel M. Crowley, Case: 21STCV06527, Date: 2022-08-10 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 21STCV06527    Hearing Date: August 10, 2022    Dept: 28

Defendant Jung Yul Cha’s Motion for Determination of Good Faith Settlement

Having considered the moving papers, the Court rules as follows. 

 

BACKGROUND

 

On February 18, 2021, Plaintiff Mercedes M Montano Godinez (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Defendants Jung Yul Cha (“Cha”) and Cynthia Potts (“Potts”) for motor vehicle negligence and general negligence. Plaintiff later amended the complaint to include Defendant Daniel Mark Stipkovich (“Stipkovich”).

On March 22, 2021, Cha filed an answer.

On July 19, 2022, Cha filed a Motion for Determination of Good Faith Settlement to be heard on August 10, 2022.

Trial is currently scheduled for August 18, 2022.

 

PARTY’S REQUESTS

 

Cha requests the Court find Cha's settlement with Plaintiff is in good faith and order that Cha is barred from being liable in any other claims for contribution or indemnity based on comparative negligence or fault.

 

LEGAL STANDARD

CCP § 887.6(a)(2) states that “[i]n the alternative, a settling party may give notice of settlement to all parties and to the court, together with an application for determination of good faith settlement and a proposed order. The application shall indicate the settling parties, and the basis, terms, and amount of the settlement. The notice, application, and proposed order shall be given by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service. Proof of service shall be filed with the court. Within 25 days of the mailing of the notice, application, and proposed order, or within 20 days of personal service, a nonsettling party may file a notice of motion to contest the good faith of the settlement. If none of the nonsettling parties files a motion within 25 days of mailing of the notice, application, and proposed order, or within 20 days of personal service, the court may approve the settlement. The notice by a nonsettling party shall be given in the manner provided in subdivision (b) of Section 1005. However, this paragraph shall not apply to settlements in which a confidentiality agreement has been entered into regarding the case or the terms of the settlement.” The statute further clarifies that the party asserting the lack of good faith shall have the burden of proof on that issue.

 

CCP § 877 states “[w]here a release, dismissal with or without prejudice, or a covenant not to sue or not to enforce judgment is given in good faith before verdict or judgment to one or more of a number of tortfeasors claimed to be liable for the same tort, or to one or more other co-obligors mutually subject to contribution rights, it shall have the following effect: (a) It shall not discharge any other such party from liability unless its terms so provide, but it shall reduce the claims against the others in the amount stipulated by the release, the dismissal or the covenant, or in the amount of the consideration paid for it, whichever is the greater. (b) It shall discharge the party to whom it is given from all liability for any contribution to any other parties.”

 

In Tech-Bilt, Inc. v. Woodward-Clyde & Associates (1985) 38 Cal.3d 488, 499, the California Supreme Court identified the following nonexclusive factors courts are to consider in determining if a settlement is in good faith under section 877.6: “a rough approximation of plaintiffs' total recovery and the settlor's proportionate liability, the amount paid in settlement, the allocation of settlement proceeds among plaintiffs, and a recognition that a settlor should pay less in settlement than he would if he were found liable after a trial.  Other relevant considerations include the financial conditions and insurance policy limits of settling defendants, as well as the existence of collusion, fraud, or tortious conduct aimed to injure the interests of nonsettling defendants.”

 

DISCUSSION

 

Plaintiff’s complaint alleges that while Plaintiff was a passenger in Cha’s car, Cha began changing lanes. Cha was then hit by Stipkovich. Cha and Plaintiff has agreed to settle for $15,000.00, following discovery.

 

Total Recovery and Proportionate Liability

 

Plaintiff’s medical damages totaled less than $9,000.00, less than the agreed upon settlement amount. There are two other named Defendants who are also potentially liable, meaning it is possible that Cha has less than 100% liability for the incident. Regardless, as the settlement exceeds the special damages, the Court finds this factor finds in favor of good faith.

 

Allocation among Plaintiffs

 

There is only one Plaintiff, so the settlement is fairly allocated.

 

Trial Liability

 

The amount to be paid is the full value of the claim if liability was not at issue; this is likely equivalent or more than what a jury would award.

 

Financial Ability of Cha

 

Cha has a $1,000,000.00 insurance policy with James River Insurance Company; this is within Cha’s financial capabilities to pay.

 

Fraud / Tortious Conduct

 

There is no indication of fraud or tortious conduct apparent. As no other Defendant has filed opposition, the Court finds there is no reason to suspect any such behavior.

 

Based on the weighing of the Tech-Built factors, the Court finds there is good cause and grants the motion.

 

CONCLUSION

Defendant Jung Yul Cha’s Motion for Determination of Good Faith Settlement is GRANTED.

 

            Moving party is ordered to give notice of this ruling.

Moving Party is ordered to file the proof of service of this ruling with the Court within five days.

The parties are directed to the header of this tentative ruling for further instructions.