Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Portland Jury Awards $900,000 in Herpes Lawsuit


Condoms, various

A Portland Ore., woman has won a suit against a man she met on in 2010, whom she says gave her herpes. She alleged negligence and battery. Other such cases have been filed in the past, most notably against celebrities, but charges are usually hard to prove, and in a civil case the defendant often does not have the funds to pay, even if the jury does make an award. Not to mention the embarassing nature of public scrutiny in such cases. All embarassment asside, however, this defendant is a retired dentist, who, presumably, can pay.

Huffington Post reports that the victim, 49, argued that the man, 69, should have told her that he had herpes before they had sex on their fourth date. She testified that she asked him to wear a condom, that he agreed, but removed it prior to coitus, and that his “advance overtook her too quickly” to realize what he had done. After the encounter he told her of his condition and she told him to get out. The woman, who had a clean bill of health just months prior to the encounter, claimed that starting about 11 days later, she suffered painful outbreaks, and a depression which caused her to lose her job. Her attorney, Randall Voght said, “I told the jury he’s dangerous, and I believe he is.” The woman, who filed the suit under a pseudonym, declined media interviews.

The dentist, whose name was kept out of the lawsuit, testified that he had herpes since 1991, but did not tell her about his condition because he was not expecting an outbreak, and did not know he was contagious. His attorney, Shawn Lillegren, argued that before succumbing to his advances, the woman should have forced his client to wear the condom she gave him, and that, besides, she knew the risk. In his closing argument he said that the plaintiff was greedy, “Go for a million — that’s plaintiff’s message, God bless America. Go for it. Got some coffee to spill on me?”

Lillegren must not have endeared his client to the jury because after four long days of testimony and only two short hours of deliberation, they found the plaintiff only 25% liable on the allegation of negligence, and the defendant 75%, adding that he was guilty of battery because he intentionally engaged in activity that would harm his date. “We all felt he should have told her — he had the responsibility to tell her,” juror Noah Brimhall told The Oregonian after the decision was announced. No word on whether the defendent plans to appeal.

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