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Woman Is Awarded $900,000 After Suing The Man Who Gave Her Herpes

Illustration for article titled Woman Is Awarded $900,000 After Suing The Man Who Gave Her Herpes

If you knew for sure that someone had given you genital herpes, would you sue them? One woman in Oregon did, and now she's won her case and is getting $900,000 for her pain and suffering. It all began when the 49-year-old woman met her 69-year-old date on eHarmony. They'd been out a few times and enjoyed each other's company, and then they had sex. She testified that she asked him to wear a condom and he agreed, but then suddenly he wasn't wearing a condom and "it was too late." As they lay together afterwards, he told her he had herpes. She got angry, understandably, and kicked him out of the house. Very shortly thereafter, she had a herpes outbreak and has since suffered from repeated painful outbreaks. She was prescribed anti-viral meds, but they caused her hair to partially fall out. She's also developed anxiety and depression. In other words, it's affected her life deeply.


For his part, the man, who is a retired dentist, swears he did not know he was contagious because he was not in the middle of an outbreak. Uh huh. He says that he didn't tell her about the herpes afterward because he felt guilty; he told her because "he liked her and wanted her to know there might be times when he had an outbreak and he would have to refrain from sex." Seriously, dude? If you really had her needs in mind, perhaps you should have told her BEFOREHAND and also worn the condom as you said you would.

The woman took the unusual step of filing a civil suit against the man. During the four-day trial, the dentist's attorney made the extremely classy argument that the woman was to blame since she failed to demand that he wear a condom because "everyone knows you're at risk for an STD." He also tried to argue that she was lying about her sexual history and could have gotten herpes from someone else. What a surprise! In the end, the jury found him 75 percent negligent and her 25 percent at fault. They awarded the woman, who is a dental hygienist, $900,000, and also found that he had committed battery because he intentionally harmed her—though he won't be prosecuted because the district attorney thinks they won't be able to prove anything "beyond a reasonable doubt." At least she's gotten some form of justice, and let's hope he's learned his lesson and will be informing future sexual partners of his condition well in advance.


Herpes verdict in Portland: Woman wins $900,000 after getting disease from date [OregonLive]
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Sigh. Why do I feel like I'm always explaining this to people? Condoms might help prevent the transmission of herpes, and they're always a good idea, but herpes is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. You can contract herpes while with wearing a condom or with a partner who is a wearing one. If you talk to anyone who has herpes, they will probably tell you that a condom was involved when they got it.

Secondly, a huge percentage of those who have herpes and transmit it to others do not know that they have it. Not everyone who has the herpes virus gets outbreaks, and many who get outbreaks do not know that they are indeed herpes outbreaks. They might think it's an ingrown hair or a pimple. Routine STD panels do not include testing for herpes. People find out if they have herpes only if they go to their doctor while they have a herpes blister and have it swabbed OR if they ask for a blood test (and they'd probably only do that if they have a partner with herpes or something). And most bloodwork will come back positive for some strain of the virus, since some astouding percentage like 80 percent of people get some kind of cold sore, so even that isn't helpful. So, a person will probably only know that they have herpes if they contracted it, got an outbreak painful enough to get them to see a doctor, and the doctor swabbing the blister.

With the stigma the way it is and lawsuits like this, there is absolutely no reason why anyone would want to know that they have herpes, even if they're suffering from some raging outbreak. Why not just stay in the dark and never face having to tell anyone, or the guilt from knowing and not telling, or the potential lawsuit?

There is really no solution to herpes, other than for people who know they have it to tell others, for people to be as safe as they can, and for everyone to just chill the fuck out.