Ralph Civil Rights Act of 1976 - How to Bring a Lawsuit


A lawsuit under the Ralph Civil Rights Act is a civil claim that a person was 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:

Sikhs walking during rally, racial or religious discrimination can lead to a Ralph Act claim
Race and religion are among the classes protected by the Ralph Act.

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

The Ralph Act 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 protected classes under the Ralph Act?

The Ralph 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 Ralph Act lawsuit. Protected classes include:

  • Sex,
  • Gender, including gender expression and identity,
  • Race,
  • Skin color,
  • Religion,
  • Ancestry or heritage,
  • National origin,
  • Disability,
  • Medical condition,
  • Genetic information,
  • Marital status,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Citizenship,
  • Primary language, and
  • Immigration status.3

The Ralph Act expressly says that this list is not all-encompassing.4

Victims do not actually have to be in a protected class. If a Ralph Act 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.

attorney speaking with judge
Ralph act claims are civil matters tried before a judge or jury.

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. Ralph Act lawsuits based on violent acts

To be successful in a Ralph Act 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. Ralph Act lawsuits based on threats

Ralph Act 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,
  • A substantial motivating reason for the threat 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 lawsuit.7

4. What damages can be recovered?

Ralph Act lawsuits are civil lawsuits. They are filed by victims against perpetrators. They seek monetary damages to compensate the victim.

Because they are civil lawsuits, claims under the Ralph Act demand compensation for:

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 are also possible in a successful Ralph Act 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 attorneys' fees for the costs of pursuing their lawsuit. You can also get a restraining order against the defendant to keep them away from you.

Call us for help…

personal injury attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

The Ralph Act is an important part of California's civil rights law. It allows 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 Ralph Act lawsuit. Contact us today to get started.

Legal References:

  1. California Civil Code § 51.7.

  2. See Jones v. Kmart Corp., 949 P.2d 941 (Cal. App. 1998).

  3. California Civil Code § 51(b) and (e).

  4. California Civil Code § 51.7(a) (“identification … of particular bases of discrimination is illustrative”).

  5. California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 3063.

  6. CACI 3064.

  7. See Long v. Valentino, 265 Cal. Rptr. 96 (Cal. App. 1989).

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