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Patricia Behr was awarded $6.75 million by a California jury last month in a lawsuit against her ex-lover. Her claim? He gave her herpes and knew about it.
As the instance of sexually transmitted diseases rises, sex torts have become a more focused point of legal inquiry and litigation. Some states have even codified the cause of action, named Wrongful Infection of a Sexually Transmitted Disease.
Though the lawsuit by Patrica Behr is not unique, it provides a good explanation of sex torts and just what makes an infected person liable.
Patricia Behr was involved with Thomas Redmond, an incredibly wealthy hair-care CEO. Though he had been infected with herpes for 25 years, he ignored the disease and made no attempt to suppress or contain it.
He also made no attempt to disclose it.
The lawsuit alleged that Redmond failed to inform Behr of his herpes until four months after their sexual relationship began. He also failed to protect her by using a condom.
In states where sex torts are not codified, such as in California, they draw from the legal principles of negligence. Plaintiffs essentially allege that a defendant's failure to disclose an STD amounts to a breach of the duty of care one owes a sexual partner. In other words, a reasonable person would disclose an STD, and by failing to do so, the defendant was negligent.
But what if the defendant doesn't know he has an STD? California, along with a few other states, will still find liability if a defendant had constructive knowledge about an infection, explains California Lawyer. This means that if a person has reason to know, or should know, that he has an STD, he will be liable for transmitting an STD.
The good thing about sex torts is that they can be easily avoided. All you need to do is get tested (often) and be honest with your sexual partners.