Calif. court expands HIV responsibility
Posted by pozlife on July 7, 2006
By PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press Writer Mon Jul 3, 11:34 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO – The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that people who lead high-risk sexual lives have good reason to know they may be infected with the virus that causes AIDS and are responsible for informing partners about possible exposure.
The 4-3 ruling in the case of a woman who accused her ex-husband of giving her HIV on their honeymoon is the court’s first involving allegations of negligent HIV infection. It makes those with “constructive knowledge” – people who should know by their behavior and other signs that they could be infected – legally liable for infecting others.
A federal court in Michigan is the only other jurisdiction to rule similarly, in a 1993 case involving former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who tested positive for HIV in 1991.
Justice Marvin Baxter, writing the majority opinion, said, “Society has an overriding policy of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, which would be enhanced by imposing a duty of care on those who have reason to know they are infected with HIV.”
The emotional distress and fraud lawsuit was filed four years ago by a woman identified only as Bridget B. against a man identified as John B.
Bridget and John last had intercourse during their honeymoon, court papers said. John told her that he was monogamous and disease-free and insisted on having unprotected sex.
Bridget tested HIV-positive in October 2000, and John was found to be positive shortly after.
In December 2001, John told Bridget that he had had sex with men, according to court documents. She sued him, and he countersued, accusing her of infecting him.
In her lawsuit, Bridget demanded to know the names and addresses of all John B.’s gay sex partners in the 10 years before their wedding in July 2000. The court ruled that if she can show that an HIV test John B. took as part of an insurance policy was faulty or unreliable, she could ask for a more detailed sexual history.
Her attorney didn’t return a telephone call Monday.
Three of the court’s seven judges wrote dissents. Two justices said it was unfair to punish those who didn’t know for sure that they had HIV. Another warned of potential ” ‘shakedown’ or vengeance lawsuits” brought to win lucrative settlements or embarrass a former sexual partner.