Alexis Giraldo, a male-to-female transgender person, was an inmate in the California prison system. Giraldo filed an action against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and various CDCR personnel “challeng[ing] prison policies that place transgender inmates, such as [Giraldo], 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.
Giraldo’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.
An appellate court held that the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer to Giraldo’s negligence claim based on a lack of duty, and thus reversed the ruling as to the first cause of action.