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May 17, 2022

Pacific Fertility Cases (May 11, 2022, A164472) __ Cal.App.5th __ [2022 WL 1496764]

Where defendants are allegedly joint tortfeasors, and one enters into a settlement agreement, Code of Civil Procedure section 877.6 provides a mechanism to determine whether the settlement is in good faith. A determination that the settlement was in good faith bars future indemnity claims against the settling defendant based on his or her comparative fault. Section 877.6 further provides that “any party aggrieved by an order approving or denying the proposed settlement “may petition the proper court to review the determination” by filing a petition for writ of mandate.

In the Pacific Fertility Cases, a fertility center was sued by hundreds of plaintiffs after their eggs and embryos were damaged in a cryogenic storage tank. Plaintiffs settled with some defendants (the clinic) and another defendant (the tank manufacturer) challenged the settlement. The trial court found the settlement to be in good faith under section 877.6, and the tank manufacturer filed a petition for writ of mandate, which the Court of Appeal summarily denied. The tank manufacturer later appealed from the trial court’s order approving the settlement and barring any future indemnity claims.

On motion of the clinic, the Court of Appeal dismissed the tank manufacturer’s appeal. Acknowledging a split of authority in appellate decisions, the court, citing legislative history, reaffirmed a decision it reached in a prior case (Housing Group v. Superior Court (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 549) that, by providing for writ review, section 877.6 precludes traditional appellate review of good faith settlement determinations. The Court of Appeal disagreed with another line of authority, including Maryland Casualty v. Andreini & Co. (2001) 81 Cal.App.4th 1413, which, based on its analysis of the same legislative history, concluded that the Legislature did not intend writ review to be the sole manner in which a good-faith determination could be reviewed by an appellate court.

Horvitz & Levy is counsel for defendant-appellant Chart, Inc.