March 13, 2008

Federal Judge Permits Family of Deceased Illegal Alien to Seek Punitive Damages Against United States Government

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "The family of an illegal immigrant who died of penile cancer that went untreated during 11 months of detention can sue government doctors for damages, a federal judge has ruled in a decision in which he condemned the defendants' alleged actions as deceptive and heartless. The claims in Francisco Castaneda's lawsuit - that government medical staffers and immigration officials brushed off his complaints of severe pain and multiple lesions, told him they saw no need for surgery and finally discharged him rather than having the government pay for treatment - describe conduct that, if proved, 'is beyond cruel and unusual,' said U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson of Los Angeles. His ruling, issued late Tuesday, allows Castaneda's family to sue the doctors for allegedly violating his constitutional rights and ask a jury to award punitive damages. Government lawyers argued that federal law allowed only a suit against the government, with a nonjury trial and a $250,000 limit on damages. . . . 'The evidence that plaintiff has presented so far - through (government officials') own records - suggests a strong case for punitive damages because it shows that (their) behavior was callous and misleading,' the judge said."