Contracting a sexually transmitted disease from a partner can be a disturbing and even devastating event. In some situations someone who has been infected by a partner may wish to pursue legal action to recover compensation for the cost of medical treatment. The merits of a lawsuit related to an STD will depend on the facts of the situation.
Theories of recovery for an STD
Because an STD is a type of personal injury, one must look first at whether negligence is an appropriate cause of action. Negligence involves a failure to exercise a degree of care that would be exercised under similar circumstances by a careful and prudent person. Someone who is aware that they have a sexually transmittable disease but does not disclose it to a partner may be committing an act of negligence. Given the right facts the infected person’s behavior could be so outrageous that it could justify a claim of gross negligence. Factors that might contribute to this analysis are the seriousness of the illness, the individual’s awareness of its transmissibility, and the particular facts surrounding the case.
If the defendant intentionally infected the plaintiff with an STD a claim of civil battery may be warranted. To successfully sue for battery the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant acted with willful intent to cause the harm. Proving the defendant’s intent can be a challenge. Bear in mind that battery is also a crime.
Challenges related to bringing suit for STDs
Filing a civil lawsuit in connection with an STD is often not an easy choice to make, even if it is clearly supported by the facts. There are a number of reasons why this is true, including:
- Privacy and embarrassment. One can expect every detail of the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant to be scrutinized by lawyers and the court. Because the facts of an STD’s transmission invariably involve highly personal details, many potential plaintiffs prefer to not pursue a case.
- Problems of proof. Proving that a partner was the source of an STD can require piecing together a complicated and invasive set of facts. Plaintiffs who have had multiple sexual partners can expect that fact to become a focus of the defense, as it tries to shift the possibility of blame to other sources.
- Proving damages. Lawsuits involving transmission of STDs usually relate to cases of incurable illnesses that have long-term health consequences. A disease that affects a person’s long-term health probably will involve substantial medical bills that can justify going to the expense of litigation. If the disease could be cured with conventional antibiotics simply may not have enough measurable damages to warrant filing suit. In some cases the plaintiff may have suffered severe mental anguish as a consequence of the STD, and that suffering may offer an independent form of injury that could justify litigation.
Talk to a personal injury lawyer about your situation
A personal injury attorney can help clarify the potential merits of a lawsuit. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has a long history of helping injured clients recover compensation. We pride ourselves on our caring, considerate approach to each case. For a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or ask us to call you through our contacts page.