GIRALDO v. Cal. Dep't of Corr.

Decision Date11 February 2009
Docket NumberNo. A119046.,A119046.
Citation85 Cal.Rptr.3d 371,168 Cal.App.4th 231
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesAlexis GIRALDO, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, et al., Defendants and Respondents.





The Walston Legal Group, Gregory S. Walston and Julie Zhalkovsky, San Francisco, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, David S. Chaney, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Frances T. Grunder, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jonathan L. Wolff, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Jose A. Zelidon-Zepeda and Emily Brinkman, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendants and Respondents.

Melissa Rothstein and Serena Lin, as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.


Plaintiff's appeal presents two questions never before decided in California: (1) whether the relationship between jailer and prisoner is a special relationship giving rise to a duty of care to the prisoner; and (2) whether there is a private right of action for damages for violation of the cruel or unusual punishment clause of the state Constitution, article I, section 17. We answer yes to the first question, no to the second.

Plaintiff Alexis Giraldo, describing herself as a male-to-female transgender person, was an inmate in the California prison system. Plaintiff filed an action against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and various CDCR personnel (when referred to collectively, defendants) “challeng[ing] prison policies that place transgender inmates, such as [plaintiff], who have the physical appearance of women, in the male inmate population without any meaningful precaution to the obvious risk of sexual assault to them.” The complaint made the specific claim that defendants failed to take action on plaintiff's repeated complaints that she was being beaten and raped by her cellmate at Folsom State Prison.

Plaintiff's complaint alleged three causes of action: (1) negligence; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (3) violation of the cruel or unusual punishment clause of the California Constitution. The law and motion judge sustained a demurrer to the first cause of action based on a failure to allege a cognizable duty. The second cause of action was rejected by a jury. And the trial judge dismissed the third cause of action on motion by defendants.

We hold that the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer to plaintiff's negligence claim based on a lack of duty, and thus reverse the ruling as to the first cause of action. We also hold that the trial court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim for damages based on an alleged violation of the cruel or unusual punishment clause, and that the trial court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, as the conclusion that these claims became moot upon plaintiff's parole from prison was supported by substantial evidence. We thus affirm the dismissal of the third cause of action and plaintiff's equitable claims.

A. The Facts

As noted, plaintiff's first claim for negligence was addressed via demurrer, which was sustained by the law and motion department. The relevant facts, therefore, are those contained in plaintiff's complaint, and we begin with the standard of review applicable here, well described in City of Morgan Hill v. Bay Area Air Quality Management Dist. (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 861, 869-870, 13 Cal.Rptr.3d 420:

“It is well established that a demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. [Citations.] On appeal from a dismissal entered after an order sustaining a demurrer, we review the order de novo, exercising our independent judgment about whether the [complaint] states a cause of action as a matter of law. [Citations.] We give the [complaint] a reasonable interpretation, reading it as a whole and viewing its parts in context. [Citations.] We deem to be true all material facts that were properly pled. [Citation.] We must also accept as true those facts that may be implied or inferred from those expressly alleged. [Citation.] We may also consider matters that may be judicially noticed, but do not accept contentions, deductions or conclusions of fact or law. [Citation.].” (Accord, Zelig v. County of Los Angeles (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1112, 1126, 119 Cal.Rptr.2d 709, 45 P.3d 1171; Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal.3d 311, 318, 216 Cal.Rptr. 718, 703 P.2d 58.)

The operative complaint is the amended complaint. It is 34 pages long, with 175 paragraphs, and contains extensive details of horrific sexual abuse plaintiff allegedly suffered at the hands of her cellmate, abuse that, according to plaintiff, defendants were repeatedly told about and repeatedly disregarded. Those details are not necessary to our analysis here, and we set forth the essential facts alleged in the amended complaint, which are these:

On or about October 17, 2005, plaintiff was incarcerated at North Kern State Prison on a parole violation. Plaintiff was a male-to-female transgender inmate who “has the physical appearance of a woman, yet she [was] incarcerated with male inmates without any meaningful precaution to the obvious risk of sexual assault stemming from being unprotected from the countless male inmates she is housed with.”

In December 2005, plaintiff was classified as a Level III Inmate with 36 points, which resulted in her having a primary placement recommendation for incarceration at either California Medical Facility (CMF) or California Men's Colony (CMC). CMF and CMC have higher concentrations of transgender inmates, and such inmates are relatively safer at both prisons than at other state prisons.

Contrary to that recommendation, however, plaintiff was in fact assigned to Folsom State Prison (FSP), to which she was transferred on January 4, 2006. Within a week of her assignment to FSP, an inmate employed as a lieutenant's clerk requested that plaintiff be assigned as his cellmate, which request was granted. Beginning almost immediately, and lasting through late January, the cellmate “sexually harassed, assaulted, raped and threatened” plaintiff on a daily basis.

During the time plaintiff was housed in this cell, her cellmate introduced her to his friend, another inmate, who in late January requested that plaintiff be transferred to his cell, which request was also granted. One to two weeks after plaintiff moved into this cell, her new cellmate began raping and beating her, again daily. Plaintiff reported the abuse to prison staff members, apparently on numerous occasions, repeatedly requesting transfer to a different cell. Her reports were ignored, and she was always returned to the same cell. 1 After one final incident on March 12, 2006, in which her cellmate raped her and attacked her with a box-cutter, plaintiff was finally placed in segregated housing.

As a result of these incidents, plaintiff suffered, and continued to suffer, “severe emotional distress that has caused severe depression and anxiety.” Plaintiff was, at the time she filed her complaint, housed in a unit for psychologically troubled inmates at CMF and expressed her fear that she would “be released from the mental-health unit and into the general male-inmate population, which [would] significantly increase the risk that she [would] be sexually assaulted once again.” Plaintiff also alleged that [u]pon her release from custody, her transition to civilian life will be more difficult, which decreases her chances of successful rehabilitation. She will need to seek professional mental-health care for the rest of her life, and her ability to work and earn income will also be diminished for the rest of her life.”

B. The Pretrial Proceedings

Plaintiff's first cause of action was for negligence, and alleged in fundamental part that Defendants' custody of plaintiff created a situation of dependency, which resulted in detrimental reliance on them for protection. This, in turn, established a duty of care to protect [plaintiff] under Williams v. State of California (1983) 34 Cal.3d 18, 192 Cal.Rptr. 233, 664 P.2d 137 [ ( Williams ) ] and other applicable law discussing the doctrine of the ‘special relationship.’ The second cause of action was for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and alleged that plaintiff had on multiple occasions informed various prison staff members that her cellmate was raping and beating her, yet they continued to place her back in the same cell with the knowledge that she would continue to be assaulted. The third cause of action was for violation of the California Constitution, article I, section 17, and alleged that defendants acted with “deliberate indifference” to plaintiff's safety needs, and that defendants' conduct was “shocking to the conscience” in violation of the cruel or unusual punishment clause of the California Constitution. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 17.)

The first and third causes of action named 13 defendants, CDCR and 12 individuals: Correctional Officer Christopher Brozdounoff; Psychologist Louis Flohr; medical technical assistant Frederick Potts; medical technical assistant Michael Ballard; Ignasiak; Psychologist Francis Gyorkey; Holliday; Correctional Sergeant Darrel Ayers; Correctional Officer Mark Stites; FSP Warden Matthew C. Kramer; former CDCR Secretary Jeanne S. Woodford; and CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton. Brozdounoff, Flohr, Potts, Ballard, Ignasiak, Gyorkey, Holliday, Ayers, and Stites were also named in the second cause of action for infliction of emotional distress. As to all defendants except Tilton and CDCR, plaintiff alleged they were not acting within their discretion within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 820.2, because they “were performing the non-discretionary, ministerial function of implementing state policies governing...

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  • Edison v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • May 20, 2016
    ...duty of care on jailers, due to prisoners' increased vulnerability while incarcerated. Giraldo v. Cal. Dep't of Corrs. & Rehab., 168 Cal.App.4th 231, 85 Cal.Rptr.3d 371, 382–88 (2008) ; see also Lawson v. Superior Court, 180 Cal.App.4th 1372, 103 Cal.Rptr.3d 834, 849–50 (2010).7 The very fa......
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