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Suing for Sexually Transmitted Disease

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.

Can Venues Be Sued For Spreading Communicable Diseases?

Every now and then we hear about a business like a hotel or cruise ship getting quarantined for the presence of a serious pathogen. Some infectious diseases, like hepatitis A or Legionnaires’ disease, can linger in an environment that’s not kept clean and dry. The consequences for someone who contracts such a disease can be devastating, even fatal. When a patron of a business comes down with a serious illness that can be traced to the business itself, a lawsuit may follow.

Premises liability and communicable disease

Like other types of personal injury lawsuits, a civil case for damages arising from a disease will be based on the theory of negligence. To prevail in a negligence suit, the injured plaintiff must show:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached that duty of care.
  • The defendant’s breach was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • The plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages, like medical bills and lost earnings.

In Nevada the owner or operator of a property has a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that visitors on the property are not injured by dangerous conditions on the premises. Foster v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 128 Nev. 773, 777 (2012). A business that invites the public onto its property is expected to take extra steps to ensure that its facilities are safe for use. Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton Corp., 109 Nev. 1096 (1993). A business is expected to correct problems that it knows about, or should know about. A business is also responsible for problems created by the actions, or inactions, of its employees. Sprague v. Lucky Stores, 109 Nev. 247, 250 (1993).

The foreseeability of disease

One challenge in a case involving disease is that the source of the disease probably was invisible. This differentiates disease from ordinary premises liability cases arising from things like improperly maintained stairways. Unlike a pool of spilled olive oil on a supermarket floor, bacteria on the rim of a spa or a virus lurking in water pipes isn’t easy to spot. This can make the element of actual or constructive notice more difficult to prove in the case of disease.

Instead, a plaintiff likely will argue that the presence of disease was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Hammerstein v. Jean Dev. West, 111 Nev. 1471, 1477 (1995). In other words, a venue that fails to take reasonable steps to clean areas where bacteria can foreseeably thrive arguably has acted negligently. A gym needs to routinely disinfect its shower areas. A hotel needs to keep its pool and spa areas properly treated.

GGRM understands premises liability

For over 45 years, the experienced personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have given personalized, caring advice to clients in the Las Vegas area. If you are recovering from a disease that you think was caused by a venue’s negligence, an attorney can help you review your options. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you by leaving a note on our contact page.