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California Pays $10,000 to Settle Sex Abuse Suit Brought by Transgender Prisoner

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has entered into a settlement agreement with former state prisoner Alexis Giraldo, paying her $10,000 in exchange for a voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit she filed in San Francisco Superior Court in 2007.

In her suit, Giraldo, a male-to-female transgender prisoner, claimed that various prison officials had failed to take any action to protect her despite being repeatedly told about the horrific sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her cell-mates while housed at Folsom State Prison. Giraldo raised state-law claims for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and cruel and unusual punishment under California’s constitution. She sought damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief with respect to the issue of transgender prisoner housing.

The trial court dismissed the negligence claim on a pretrial motion, holding that as a matter of law Giraldo had failed to allege a cognizable duty on the part of any of the defendants. The court also dismissed the cruel and unusual punishment claim, finding that case law did not authorize damages for such a claim. As to the emotional distress claim, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. Finally, because Giraldo was paroled three days before the trial began, her request for injunctive and declaratory relief was dismissed as moot.

The California Court of Appeal held that Giraldo’s negligence claim should not have been dismissed, because the vulnerability of prisoners to assault created a “special relationship” between prison officials and prisoners sufficient to impose an affirmative duty on the part of those officials to protect prisoners from foreseeable harm (including sexual abuse) by other prisoners. See: Giraldo v. CDCR, 168 Cal. App. 4th 231 (Cal.App. 1 Dist. 2008).

Giraldo and the CDCR agreed to settle the case following remand from the appellate court for reconsideration of her negligence claim. No admission of liability attached to the settlement agreement.

Giraldo was ably represented by attorney Julie Zhalkovsky of the Walston Legal Group in San Francisco. See: Giraldo v. CDCR, San Francisco Superior Court (CA), Case No. CGC-07-461473.

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Giraldo v. CDCR

Giraldo v. CDCR