A lawsuit under the Ralph Civil Rights Act is a civil claim for up to $25,000.00 in penalties for the victim of a hate crime or a threatened hate crime. A claim is based on the person being targeted because of his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, sexual orientation or other protected class.
Successful Ralph Act lawsuits can recover:
In this article, the personal injury lawyers at the Shouse Law Office explain:
- 1. What is a Ralph Act lawsuit?
- 2. What are the protected classes?
- 3. What do I have to prove in a lawsuit?
- 4. What damages can be recovered?
1. What is a Ralph Act lawsuit?
A Ralph Act lawsuit is a civil claim for damages under the Ralph Civil Rights Act of 1976.1 The Ralph Act, along with the Bane Act, was meant to prevent hate crimes.2
This law guarantees the right of people in protected classes to be free from both violence and intimidation. The Ralph Act does this by allowing them to file a lawsuit against perpetrators of a hate crime or discrimination. The Act also allows lawsuits to be filed against people who threaten those in protected classes.
2. What are the protected classes?
The Ralph Civil Rights Act protects people who are in protected classes. If one person hurts or threatens someone else because they are in a protected class, it can lead to a lawsuit under California law. Protected classes include:
- Gender, including gender expression and identity,
- Skin color,
- Ancestry or heritage,
- National origin,
- Medical condition,
- Genetic information,
- Marital status,
- Sexual orientation,
- Political affiliation,
- Primary language, and
- Immigration status.3
The Act expressly says that this list is not all-encompassing.4
Victims do not actually have to be in a protected class. If a defendant wrongly perceives someone as being in a protected class, they can be liable in a lawsuit.
Example: Dan threatens to run Ranjit over in his car for being Muslim. Ranjit is actually Sikh.
Note that lawsuits can be brought not only by the protected person but also by the attorney general or a district attorney or a city attorney.
3. What do I have to prove in a lawsuit?
What you have to prove in a Ralph Act lawsuit based on violence is slightly different than one based on threats. Both, however, center on whether your status in a protected class caused the violence or threat.
3.1. Lawsuits based on violent acts
To be successful in a lawsuit based on violence, you have to prove that:
- The defendant committed a violent act against you or your property,
- A substantial motivating reason for the violence was the perception of your position in a protected class, and
- The violence was a substantial cause of your injuries.5
3.2. Lawsuits based on threats
Lawsuits that claim someone intimidated you with a threat of violence have to prove that:
- The defendant intentionally threatened violence against you or your property (physical assault and/or property damage),
- A substantial motivating reason for the threats of violence was the perception that you were in a protected class,
- A reasonable person in your shoes would have believed the defendant would carry out the threat and been intimidated by it, and
- The threat was a substantial factor in any losses or harms that you suffered.6
It is not necessary to show that the threats were carried out. Mere words can be enough for a Ralph Act civil action.7
4. What damages can be recovered?
Ralph Act lawsuits are civil lawsuits. They are filed by victims against perpetrators. They seek monetary damages as civil remedies to compensate the victim.
Because they are civil lawsuits, claims demand compensation for such actual damages as:
- Medical bills associated with any physical injuries you suffered and required medical treatment,
- Wages lost while you were recuperating,
- Lost earning capacity,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Costs of property repair (such as from vandalism),
- Loss of consortium suffered by your family.
It can also include other financial losses that can be connected to threats or violence, such as:
- Moving costs,
- Mental anguish of living in fear, and
- Additional security at home or work.
Punitive damages (exemplary damages) are also possible in a successful lawsuit. These seek to punish the defendant for their conduct. You can recover punitive damages even if you have already been fully compensated.
The Ralph Act, however, goes further than many other civil lawsuits. It allows victims to recover a civil fine of $25,000, as well. Victims can also recover attorney fees for the costs of pursuing their lawsuit. You can also get a restraining order against the defendant to keep them away from you.
Contact us for help…
The state of California’s civil rights laws allow you to defend yourself against people who attack or threaten you for who you are. Our California personal injury attorneys can help you file a lawsuit. Contact us today to get started.
- California Civil Code § 51.7. (See also the Unruh Civil Rights Act.)
- See Jones v. Kmart Corp., 949 P.2d 941 (Cal. App. 1998).
- California Civil Code § 51(b) and (e).
- California Civil Code section 51.7(a) (“identification … of particular bases of discrimination is illustrative”).
- California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 3063.
- CACI 3064. Also see the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
- See Long v. Valentino, 265 Cal. Rptr. 96 (Cal. App. 1989).