Castaneda v. State of California
This is a wrongful death and survival action against the State of California for causing the penile amputation and death of former California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prisoner Francisco Castaneda. The lawsuit alleges that the State violated California Government Code § 845.6 by failing to provide Mr. Castaneda with a simple skin biopsy that CDCR’s medical providers knew he urgently needed for a penile lesion during his four months in CDCR’s custody.
Mr. Castaneda was transferred from State custody to federal immigration detention, where he was held for approximately 11 months. Mr. Castaneda did not get a biopsy while in federal detention either and filed a separate lawsuit against the United States (see Castaneda v. United States). After Mr. Castaneda was released from federal custody, he got a biopsy on his own in February 2007. By then it was too late. His penis was amputated and he began a round of chemotherapy in a futile attempt to stop the spreading cancer. Castaneda died in February 2008. He was 36 years old.
In November 2010, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury found the State of California liable in the wrongful death of Castaneda. The jurors awarded total of $1.73 million to Mr. Castaneda’s daughter, Vanessa, and the Estate of Francisco Castaneda.
In July 2012, the California Court of Appeal reversed the judgment against the State, holding that the State was immune from suit. The Court of Appeal granted Public Justice’s petition for rehearing and vacated the opinion. On January 15, 2013, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion on rehearing, reversing the judgment again. On February 25, 2013, Public Justice filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. That petition was denied, wiping away a $1.73 million jury verdict for the Castaneda family.
However, the $1.95 million Public Justice won for the family in a settlement with the federal government still stands. In addition, the Castaneda family may now proceed with their claims against two State of California medical providers, which are pending in federal court in Castaneda v. United States. Those claims had been put on hold while the case against the State of California was pending.
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Public Justice’s legal team includes lead trial counsel Conal Doyle of Los Angeles; co-counsel Thomas Dempsey, also of Los Angeles; and lead appellate counsel/co-counsel at trial, Public Justice Managing Attorney Adele Kimmel.