Sep 14, 2020
The granddaughter of Aldo Gucci – eldest son of the worldwide Gucci fashion brand’s founder – filed a civil lawsuit last week alleging her stepfather sexually abused her over a period of 16 years. The complaint, filed by Alexandra Zarini in Los Angeles Superior Court, describes years of sexual abuse by her former stepfather, Joseph Ruffalo. The suit also alleges complicity and a cover-up on the part of her mother, Patricia Gucci, and grandmother, Bruna Palombo. The complaint specifically cites Palombo’s knowledge of the alleged sexual assaults and instructions to her daughter, formerly Ruffalo’s husband, to “keep quiet and cover them up.”
The filing of the lawsuit coincided with an announcement of the heiress’ childhood sexual abuse survivor nonprofit, the Alexandra Gucci Children’s Foundation. Zarini’s attorney, Deborah Mallgrave, indicated that although her client expects to be disinherited from the family’s fortune, any financial award from the case would go towards the new nonprofit.
“If you think this doesn’t happen here in Beverly Hills, then you should know that my perpetrator still lives in California, spends time at the Bel-Air Country Club, and volunteers in your children’s hospitals,” Zarini said via a video statement released by her legal team. “This is not something that only happens to other families, other neighborhoods, or other countries. It is everywhere.”
Zarini alleges the abuse first occurred when she was six-years-old and continued until she was about 22. In a statement Patricia Gucci said she was “deeply sorry for the pain Ruffalo caused Alexandra,” though she denies the allegations against her and Palombo.
“What he did to her is inexcusable and I was devastated when she disclosed everything to me at our family doctor’s office in London in September 2007. I immediately initiated divorce proceedings against Mr. Ruffalo and set about healing my family through counseling.”
Allegations within the complaint include:
The Gucci case highlights the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and its potential to impact any family, regardless of socioeconomic status or fame. Moreover, the case highlights the current opportunity for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse to obtain justice under California’s AB 218 three-year “lookback window.”
AB 218 includes a stipulation known as the three-year “lookback window” for previously time-barred claims. It provides virtually any victim of childhood sexual abuse the ability to file a civil lawsuit against their individual predator or at-fault institution within three years of the bill becoming law. It is a blanket window that is available only for a limited time – from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2022 – and applies regardless of how long ago the crime occurred.
Zarini’s civil lawsuit is an example of a case that would otherwise have been barred under the statute of limitations, but is now possible under AB 218. Additionally, the case may be an example of how AB 218’s treble damages clause is applied.
If, as the complaint alleges, a cover-up on the part of Zarini’s mother or grandmother is proven, she would be entitled to treble (triple) damages for any financial award. Treble damages is a term referring to a statute permitting a court to triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages to be awarded to a prevailing plaintiff.
According to the lawsuit, both Patricia Gucci and Palombo “tried to avoid, at all costs, what they perceived would be a scandal that could tarnish the Gucci name and potentially cost them millions.” Palombo told her granddaughter that alerting authorities would be the “ultimate betrayal,” according to the court filing.
Dordulian Law Group features a team of sexual abuse justice experts (SAJE), providing survivors four tiers of all-encompassing representation.
The Four Tiers of DLG SAJE Team Representation:
Don’t wait for the lookback window to expire. Under AB 218, the statute of limitations removal is only available for a limited time. Contact us today to setup a free consultation and speak with a member of the DLG SAJE Team about your case.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and workers compensation concerns.