Tom Bane Civil Rights Act - How to Bring a Lawsuit

Lawsuits under the Bane Act are civil claims against someone who interfered or tried to interfere with your civil rights. Your civil rights are those guaranteed by the constitution or state or federal law. They include your right to:

  • Vote,
  • Bear arms,
  • Speak, or
  • Associate with certain people.

A Bane Act lawsuit can be filed against anyone who interfered with your right through the use of:

  • Violence,
  • Threats of violence,
  • Intimidation, or
  • Coercion.

Bane Act lawsuits typically demand that the defendant pay:

In this article, our California personal injury lawyers at the Shouse Law Office explain:

judge reading documents

1. What are lawsuits under the Bane Act in California?

Bane Act lawsuits are civil claims filed under the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act.1 You can file a Bane Act lawsuit against someone who interfered with your civil rights. That interference can take the form of:

  • Threats of violence,
  • Actual violence,
  • Intimidation, or
  • Coercion.

Because Bane Act lawsuits are civil claims, rather than criminal ones, victims can recover monetary damages in the form of compensation.

Bane Act lawsuits can be filed against anyone, including individual actors, corporations,2 and even the government.3

2. What are considered civil rights?

Under the Bane Act, your civil rights are any legal right you have under the:

  • U.S. Constitution,
  • California state constitution,
  • Federal law, or
  • State law.4

These rights include, for example:

  • Your right to be free from police searches or seizures that are unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,5
  • Your right to vote under the California Voting Rights Act, and
  • Your right to file a civil rights complaint in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
judge speaking with attorney

3. What do I have to prove in a Bane Act lawsuit?

To succeed in a Bane Act lawsuit, you have to prove either that:

  • The defendant made threats of violence against you or your property that made you reasonably believe that they would be carried out if you exercised your civil right, or
  • The defendant acted violently against you or your property to prevent you from exercising your rights or to retaliate against you for doing so.

In addition to one of these options, you also have to show that:

  • You were harmed, and
  • The defendant's conduct was a substantial factor in causing your harm.6

3.1. Attempted violations are sufficient

It is not necessary to show that the defendant actually kept you from exercising your rights. An attempt to keep you from exercising your rights can lead to liability under the Bane Act.7

3.2. No discriminatory intent necessary

You also do not need to show that the defendant acted with a discriminatory intention.8 It is enough for the defendant to try to keep you from exercising your rights. This makes Bane Act lawsuits different from Ralph Act lawsuits.

3.3. Mere speech cannot lead to liability

However, without more, speech alone cannot lead to liability under the Bane Act.9 The speech has to be a threat of violence that creates reasonable fear of imminent harm.

4. What damages are available in a Bane Act lawsuit in California?

Bane Act lawsuits can recover monetary damages that compensate you for your losses, including:

The Bane Act requires this compensation to be at least $4,000. It also allows the jury to triple this amount of compensation.10

Successful Bane Act lawsuits can also recover:

  • Attorneys' fees,
  • Punitive damages,
  • A civil penalty of $25,000, and
  • Restraining orders against the defendant.

Call us for help…

bane act attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If someone tried keeping you from exercising your civil rights, you can file a Bane Act lawsuit against them. A successful claim can hold them accountable for their actions and compensate you for the experience. The California personal injury lawyers at the Shouse Law Office can help. Contact us today to get started on your case.


Legal References:

  1. California Civil Code § 52.1.

  2. See Jones v. Kmart Corp., 17 Cal.4th 329 (Cal. 1998).

  3. See Gatto v. County of Sonoma, 98 Cal.4th 744 (Cal. 2002).

  4. California Civil Code § 52.1(c). There is uncertainty if this only includes rights under state statutes or if rights guaranteed by court cases is also included. Venegas v. City of Los Angeles, 32 Cal.4th 820 (Cal. 2004) applied the Bane Act and said that it was only rights under state statutes. But Rojo v. Kliger, 52 Cal.3d 65 (Cal. 1990) applied an identical phrase in the Fair Employment and Housing Act and said that it also included common law.

  5. Venegas v. City of Los Angeles, Supra.

  6. California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 3066.

  7. See Austin B. v. Escondido Union School District, 149 Cal.App.4th 860 (Cal. App. 2007).

  8. Venegas v. City of Los Angeles, Supra.

  9. California Civil Code § 52.1(k).

  10. California Civil Code § 52.1(c).

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