STD suit could set precedent in state

Reader Response to “Don’t Marry Career Women” – STD suit could set precedent in state

STD suit could set precedent in state
Regular Contributor
By Leslie Parrilla

A former San Luis Obispo County resident is suing her ex-husband, claiming he negligently infected her with a sexually transmitted disease in what experts say could be a precedent-setting case in California.

Legal experts say the case between Janet Smith and Patrick Neiland Smith is significant because many people do not realize passing on an STD could pose a legal liability.

The San Luis Obispo case could set a precedent because it may be the first in the state to be resolved after a California Supreme Court ruling this year stating that people are liable not only when they know they have an STD, but also when they should have known.

“People are not as careful perhaps as they need to be,” said Loyola Law School professor John T. Nockleby. “People probably aren’t thinking about potential legal liability when they’re having casual sex.”

The Smiths were married in 1979 and lived in San Luis Obispo County. They are completing divorce proceedings.

Janet Smith, 52, now a resident of Nevada, is asking for an unlimited amount of compensation in the lawsuit, claiming her ex-husband was unfaithful during their marriage, contracted the human papillomavirus, or HPV, and negligently infected her. She underwent a hysterectomy and was left fearful of having contracted other STDs, the suit states.

Civil suits represent only one side of the story.

San Luis Obispo attorney Mark B. Connely, who is representing Patrick Neiland Smith, now a resident of Santa Barbara County, argued during a jury trial this week that his client did not negligently infect his ex-wife with HPV and that Smith did not know he had the virus.

The jury will decide whether Smith is negligent and whether he should have known he had an STD.

Nockleby said the Supreme Court decision in John B. v. the Superior Court of Los Angeles County “says you can sue somebody else for giving you an STD, not only if they know they have the STD, but if they had symptoms” that would have caused a reasonable person to go and find out whether they were infected.

That is something Nockleby believes the general public does not know.

“Not that I want to make sexual relationships about law, but I do think people who engage in casual sexual encounters … need to know about this kind of thing,” he said.

The Smith case is expected to continue with closing arguments today.
Leslie Parrilla can be reached at 783-7645.

11-20-2006 07:54 PM

Re: STD suit could set precedent in state
Regular Contributor
She’d better not win that one. There is no test to detect HPV in men. Not to mention that it can lie dormant for years, although I’m not sure that it could survive for 27 years. Perhaps he cheated, but that’s not a crime in the legal sense.

11-21-2006 12:01 AM

Re: STD suit could set precedent in state
It could be a crime if he had been informed by a doctor about the disease and he knowingly had unprotected sex with someone. Not sure about HPV since you said it can’t be detected in men, but I’ve heard about cases where people with HIV were arrested after they had sex with others in attempt to infect them. You’d have to prove intent though, of course.

11-21-2006 11:22 AM

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