Can You Sue Someone For Giving You an STD?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a common public health problem that affects many people. Some STDs are easily curable even though they may cause pain, discomfort or suffering in the meantime. But others can be chronic or incurable and some can even be serious or deadly.
So it's no wonder that when someone gives an STD to another person, the other person would usually feel mad, scared, or even betrayed. But the real question that's on many people's minds is whether you can sue someone for giving you an STD and actually have a chance of winning your case without having it thrown out by a judge.
The answer to that question is "Yes, but it depends..."
If somebody gave you an STD, you most definitely can sue them in most cases, assuming you're both in the same country. If it happened in a different country or if that person is living in a different country it can be very difficult and you should speak to an attorney if this is the case.
Even if it happened in a different state, it can also be difficult but still possible. Your odds of winning greatly depend on many different factors involved. Anybody who wants to sue for receiving an STD from someone else should talk to a lawyer, but before you do, here's some things you may want to be aware of that can affect whether you win or lose your lawsuit.
What Types of STDs Can You Sue Over?
There's a common saying where people often say "In the United States you can sue anyone for anything, but what matters is whether you'll win or lose." This is a misleading statement because judges often throw out cases before they even make it to court.So your complaints may not even stand a chance if a judge thinks you're wasting the court's time with your lawsuit.
When it comes to STDs and lawsuits, the cases that make it to court are usually the ones that involve a serious infection, such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis, and different strains of hepatitis (most commonly hepatitis B and C).
Even herpes (HSV-1 and HSV-2) can be considered serious since it's a life-long chronic condition for many people, as well as HPV (genital warts. But the circumstances really matter and some cases may be taken seriously while others aren't, depending on the factors involved. Almost one out of every six people in America have herpes but many of those who have it aren't aware that they do. Symptoms do not have to be occuring in order for an infected person to transmit the disease to another person.
If it's something that can be easily cured with antibiotics, then it's unlikely that your case would make it to court, and even more unlikely that you would win your case if it actually did get that far. Infections such as chlamydia and gonnorhea can usually be cured with a course of antibiotics and probably wouldn't make for a strong case.
However, there are some rare strains out there that are resistant to treatment like the "Super Gonnorhea" strain that the CDC warned about in 2012. In 2003 this particular strain showed up in Japan first and since then has shown up in France and Spain.
So while it's extremely rare, some bacterial infections can and do become resistant every now and then and something like this would probably make it to the courtroom.
Other types of STD infections that may be eligible for civil lawsuits include chancroid, crabs (pubic lice), trichomoniasis, and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Some of these STDs are easily curable in most cases but since they can often cause other health problems if undiagnosed or can lead to more severe STD infections they can all be grounds for a civil lawsuit depending on the severity or particular circumstances.
This can be particularly true for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which is an infection-causing bacteria in women that's often caused by other STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. It can be cured with antibiotics but can sometimes become a lifelong problem for some people.
Factors That Can Affect Whether You Win Or Lose Your Lawsuit
It can be extremely expensive for a person to sue another person because these types of lawsuits can often take years before they're settled out of court or before a judge or jury are able to make a decision. Because of this, many people who bring lawsuits to those who infect often give up or settle early for small amounts of restitution because they can't afford to continue fighting it in court. The majority of STD lawsuits are settled out of court for this reason.
Since there's so many people in today's society with STDs it can be very hard to prove who actually infected you. However, with the help of a court order, many STDs including herpes and HIV can be linked to another person through DNA fingerprints. This can be very costly, however, and in some circumstances may not prove anything if you happen to hang around or sleep with other people that the defendant had slept with in the past, who may have then passed it on to you.
In most cases you'll have to prove that there was some sort of intent to infect you involved. That the person either purposely infected you without you realizing that they were infected, or that they failed to notify you that they were infected when they themselves knew all along of their infection and purposely didn't tell you. This can often be one of the most challenging things you'll come across during the court proceedings because it can often be a case of "he said, she said" and it's hard for a judge or jury to be able to know beyond a reasonable doubt who is actually telling the truth.
Negligence vs. Intent
In a court of law, there's a big difference between negligence and actual intent. If a person is negligent and forgets to tell someone about their STD infection, it's not the same as someone purposely withholding that information and keeping it a secret until after the fact. If a person is found to be negligent, the amount rewarded may not be as much as if they are found to have actual intent and withheld the information. If there is actul intent proven, this can lead into personal injury damages having to be paid which can result in a much larger amount rewarded and a much stronger case for the defense.
As far as negligence goes, even if a defendant didn't they were infected at the time they infected the plaintiff, they can still be sued for negligence if they knew they were at high risk for the infection. For example, if a doctor told the defendant that they should be tested because they participate in acts that are considered high risk for HIV infection and they fail to get tested until they infect another person unknowingly.
If none of the responsibility falls on you, then this can definitely help you win your case. But if any responsibility related to your infection falls on you and if you're even partially to blame, than you could either lose the whole case or the amount you're awarded could be reduced. For example, in one case a woman was awarded $400,000 because of a man's negligence who spread herpes to her, but she was found to be 30% at fault for the situation, so this amount was reduced down to $280,000.
The amount of money you're expected to spend over your lifetime on health expenses or medication can greatly influence the course of a lawsuit or how much money you end up getting in the end. If it took a few months and five doctor visits to clear up a bacterial infection, this certainly won't result in the same type of monetary damages paid out to you that an HIV infection case would where you'll need to buy expensive medication and visit doctors for the rest of your life.
The laws in a state, country, or jurisdiction are especially important in any type of lawsuit. States like Ohio and New Jersey have stricter HIV disclosure laws than states like California, for example. In some states, a person can be convicted for having any type of sexual contact with person if they don't disclose their HIV status. This includes having sex with condoms on. But in other states, they can't be convicted for not disclosing their status as long as they either wear a condom, don't infect the other person, or both. Of course, criminal law is completely different than civil law, but this can often play a role in how a civil lawsuit goes because it can affect the perceptions of a local jury or the judge along with other factors where the two can be intertwined. In most states and countries you can still sue for civil damages even if a criminal offense hasn't occurred.
Time Limit to Sue
There's often a time limit to sue in most states and countries as well. This is known as a statute of limitations. The statute of limitation for these types of lawsuits usually starts from when a person is first diagnosed with an infection or when symptoms first show up. It entirely depends on the county, state or country and differs everywhere. It can be two years after an infection was diagnosed or 20 years, depending on where you live now or where you lived when the infection occurred. Usually it will depend on where you lived when the infection occurred.
-Marc Christian MacGinnis sued the famous actor Rock Hudson's estate after Hudson died of AIDS. MacGinnis claimed that Hudson knowingly exposed him to the HIV virus, even though he didn't contract it. He won the lawsuit for a little under $6 million. The fact that Hudson didn't publicly acknowledge his disease for a year while Christian was with him may have played a role.
HPV (Genital Warts)
-In 1997 a Muscatine, Iowa woman in her 20's sued a dentist after they had a long-term sexual relationship. He had allegedly given her two strains of HPV (one of which is the type that causes cervical cancer) after he specifically told her that he had no STDs. The woman was unable to prove that he was the person who actually gave it to her, but a jury still awarded her $1.5 million.
-In 2011 a 77 year old multi-millionaire in Palm Springs was ordered to pay his ex-girlfriend $6.7 million for giving her herpes and failing to let her know he was infected and for not using a condom.
-In 2009 a woman sued a man for giving her genital herpes and won $900,000 awarded by a jury. But the man was a retired dentist, and it was the first civil lawsuit case involving herpes in Oregon that ever went to trial. The woman visited a doctor 4 months earlier and was checked for STDs then visited a doctor again after her first outbreak after being with the man which helped document the whole thing. She asked im to wear a condom and he said he would but apparently didn't wear one and then admit he had herpes afterwards. She had very severe outbreaks and had to get on antiviral medication which caused her to lose some hair and gain over 30 pounds. The dentist admit that he did not wear a condom and stated that he thought he was only infectious during outbreaks.
-In 2005 Infamous NFL player Michael Vick was sued by a woman named Sonya Elliot who alleged that he had infected her with genital herpes without disclosing his infection until after the fact. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
-In 1996 another woman in Oregon filed a similar herpes lawsuit against her boyfriend for not disclosing that he had herpes before infecting her, but it was settled out of court for $550,000.
-In 1995 a New York woman was awarded $630,000 after suing her husband for giving her herpes without first warning her that he had it. He had allegedly picked it up from another woman while cheating on his wife. It took many years for her to win the legal dispute.
-In 1983 a woman in Washington state won a lawsuit in which a jury awarded her $40,000 because her husband had given her herpes. He claimed he had warned her but she claimed he didn't. She filed the lawsuit after they had decided to get divorced.
Speak to a Lawyer
If you've been infected with an STD by another person and you're wondering if you have grounds for a lawsuit, the smartest thing you can do is speak to a lawyer. This will usually be free and in many cases a personal injury lawyer will be the best type of attorney you can speak to.
You don't need a lawyer to bring forth a civil lawsuit, but STD cases are usually very complicated and require someone who is very skilled at bringing all the facts to the table and knowing whether you even stand a chance. It may even be best to get a second opinion from another lawyer just to see how others feel about it.
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