Judge: Lisa K. Sepe-Wiesenfeld, Case: 21STCV12097, Date: 2024-06-11 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 21STCV12097    Hearing Date: June 11, 2024    Dept: N

TENTATIVE RULING

Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC’s Motion for Determination of Good Faith Settlement is GRANTED.

Any other joint tortfeasors or co-obligors are barred from asserting any further claims against Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC based on comparative negligence or comparative fault.

Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC’s Motion for an Order Sealing Settlement Details is GRANTED.

Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC to give notice. 

REASONING

Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC’s Motion for Determination of Good Faith Settlement
Code of Civil Procedure section 877.6 enables a settling defendant to free itself not only from any further claims of the plaintiff but also from any subsequent liability to any non-settling defendant for equitable comparative contribution, or partial or comparative indemnity. A settling defendant obtains this immunity by settling in “good faith.” Code of Civil Procedure section 877.6, subdivision (b), provides that the court may determine the good faith of a settlement on the basis of affidavits and counter affidavits or may, in its discretion, receive other evidence at the hearing. Section 877.6 grants the trial court broad discretion in determining whether a settlement is in good faith for purposes of that statute, and “its decision may be reversed only upon a showing of abuse of discretion.” (TSI Seismic Tenant Space, Inc. v. Superior Court (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 159, 165.)

To determine whether a settlement was in “good faith” the court should inquire as to whether the amount of the settlement is “within the reasonable range” of the settling defendant’s proportional share of comparative liability for the plaintiff’s injuries. (Abbott Ford, Inc. v. Superior Court (1987) 43 Cal.3d 858, 872.) Ultimately, the “settlement figure must not be grossly disproportionate to what a reasonable person, at the time of the settlement, would estimate the settling defendant’s liability to be.” (Tech-Bilt v. Woodward-Clyde & Assocs. (1985) 38 Cal.3d 488, 499 (Tech-Bilt).) In determining the good faith of a settlement, the court should consider a number of factors, including: 
 
(1) A rough approximation of the total recovery and the settlor’s proportionate liability; 
(2) The actual settlement amount; 
(3) The allocation of settlement proceeds among plaintiffs; 
(4) The recognition that a settlor should pay less in settlement than he or she would if liability is established after trial; 
(5) The financial conditions and insurance policy limits of the settlor; and 
(6) The existence of facts showing collusion, fraud, or tortious conduct aimed to injure the interests of nonsettling defendants. 

(Ibid.) Furthermore, the evaluation must “be made on the basis of information available at the time of settlement.” (Ibid.)

The party contesting the settlement bears the burden of proving that the settlement is in bad faith. (Code Civ. Proc., § 877.6, subd. (d).) Notably, when the good faith nature of a settlement is uncontested, the Court need not consider and weigh the Tech-Bilt factors. (City of Grand Terrace v. Superior Court (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 1251, 1261.) “[W]hen no one objects, the barebones motion which sets forth the ground of good faith, accompanied by a declaration which sets forth a brief background of the case is sufficient.” (Ibid.)

Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC (“the Wedgewood Defendants”) move the Court for a determination of good faith settlement with Plaintiffs Rose Lynch and Michael Lynch (“Plaintiffs”). The unopposed application describes the background of this case and the nature of the proposed settlement. The Wedgewood Defendants state that they dispute liability, but they have agreed to settle with Plaintiffs for an amount identified in the sealed application in exchange for a full release of the claims against the Wedgewood Defendants. The Court recognizes that Plaintiffs could recover more than the settlement amount if Plaintiffs were able to establish the Wedgewood Defendants’ liability at trial, and the application provides sufficient reasoning as to why the settlement was reached in good faith. Thus, the Court finds that the Wedgewood Defendants have sufficiently demonstrated a settlement made in good faith. Accordingly, Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC’s Motion for Determination of Good Faith Settlement is GRANTED. Any other joint tortfeasors or co-obligors are barred from asserting any further claims against Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC based on comparative negligence or comparative fault.

Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC’s Motion for an Order Sealing Settlement Details
The trial court “may order that a record be filed under seal only if it expressly finds facts that establish: (1) There exists an overriding interest that overcomes the right of public access to the record; (2) The overriding interest supports sealing the record; (3) A substantial probability exists that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed; (4) The proposed sealing is narrowly tailored; and (5) No less restrictive means exist to achieve the overriding interest.” (McGuan v. Endovascular Techs., Inc. (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 974, 988, paragraph breaks omitted.)

The Wedgewood Defendants move the Court for an order allowing them to seal the details of their settlement with Plaintiffs, consistent with the parties’ Confidential Settlement Agreement and General Release, on the ground the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, as the parties agreed not to disclose the agreement’s terms, and disclosure of the details would violate the settlement agreement.

While a stipulation between the parties to keep the terms of a settlement confidential does not itself provide a basis for the Court to seal portions of the motion, as there is a right of public access to court records, the Court finds it proper to seal the redacted portions of the motion, as there is an interest in encouraging settlements, and the Wedgewood Defendants have narrowly tailored their redactions to only the specific dollar amount and the specific terms of the agreement between the parties. Accordingly, Defendants Wedgewood Village Pharmacy, LLC Wedgewood Connect, LLC, and Wedgewood Village Pharmacy Intermediate Holdings, LLC’s Motion for an Order Sealing Settlement Details is GRANTED.