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HIV, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Litigation

November 20, 2012

In the New York Times Science Section (www.nytimes.com) on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 reference was made to the security measures taken in the pornography industry to protect against the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases by assuring that there is periodic and regular testing of the porn stars. The article points out that the "actors" must present laboratory proof that they were tested within the past fifteen days for H.I.V., syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. They even have to submit to a physical examination conducted by the producers to see if there is any gross evidence of infection. The article notes that when there is a positive result the other industry studios are notified. In addition, the persons with whom the infected individual has had sexual contact with are notified along with any other partners of those partners. Filming in the participating studios is stopped until all of the potentially infected persons are found and tested. It is apparent that the scrutiny imposed by the industry is necessary because the infected individuals may not know or voluntarily reveal their positive findings out of fear that they may lose their employment opportunities or for other selfish reasons.

This news article leads to consideration of the recourse available to an innocent victim of a sexually transmitted disease who becomes infected by someone who knowingly concealed their positive status. Such concealment is actionable in both the civil and possibly the criminal courts. In the civil arena the compensable damages can be substantial, particularly if the transmitted infection is one such as HIV that carries with it a lifetime of fear, concern and treatment. The problem, however, is that the offending individual undoubtedly would not have liability insurance coverage for such a willful concealment. Consequently, the only opportunity for financial recompense is if the infected individual has substantial assets which can be attached in the event of a favorable judgment. If the individual is "judgment proof", namely of limited means and without assets to satisfy a judgment, then a favorable verdict would only be a pyrrhic victory.

Another consideration in contemplation of litigation is an evaluation of the strength of the proof. "He said - she said" cases, where the proof rests solely upon the conflicting claims of the plaintiff that are denied by the defendant, are not attractive. Too much rests upon the credibility of the parties with the plaintiff usually being on the weaker side of the fence because of the obvious financial gain involved. Some independent corroborating proof, which may be hard to obtain, that the aggrieved party knew but never told of the condition would strengthen the case substantially. A consultation with an attorney who specializes in personal injury litigation would help sift out the available and realistic options.

Attorney Steven E. North
148 East 74th St. -
New York, NY 10021
Office (212) 861-5000
Toll Free (800) 861-5001
Fax (212) 861-4055
www.north-law.com
snorth@north-law.com