In a case of real-life imitating what I’m sure has been the subject of several Law & Order episodes, an Oregon woman was awarded $900,000 in a lawsuit against a retired Portland dentist who gave her herpes. Though sex between the unnamed 49-year-old plaintiff and her 69-year-old lover was consensual, she said he misled her about wearing a condom and failed to mention he had herpes until after they had sex.
That’s right–the dentist knew he had the disease, and told the woman so as they were lying in bed afterward. His defense is that he was unaware he was contagious at that time. In fact, he told her after sex because he liked her, and thought she should know going forward.
Oof. The couple met on eHarmony and on their fourth date, the Oregonian informs us, had “hors d’oeuvres, wine, a few puffs of pot” and sex. She contracted genital herpes, and after several outbreaks of the disease filed a lawsuit asking for $900,000 in damages (which the jury awarded). According to the newspaper:
It was the first time a case of one person suing another for intentionally transmitting herpes went to trial in Oregon, said the attorneys who tried and researched the case.
Jurors were asked to ponder fundamental questions about dating and sex in today’s times: Was the man obligated to tell his date that he had genital herpes before they had unprotected sex? Did he truly not know that he was contagious even when he wasn’t experiencing lesions? And how much should a person be compensated for a disease, albeit incurable, that affects roughly 1 in 6 adults?
In what must have been quite strange deliberations, the jury somehow determined that the man was 75% negligent, while the woman carried 25% of the blame. Two jurors dissented, believing he was 100% at fault. The jury also found the man guilty of committing battery by intentionally engaging in activity that harmed the woman.
The man’s attorney, Shawn Lilligren, gives the Oregonian a hint of what one can only imagine was a stellar defense:
“Grow up. Come on. You’re an adult. He’s an adult. They had sex,” Lillegren said. “The point is she is not some little innocent victim.”
In other words, because the victim consented to have sex with his client, lying to her about wearing a condom (she testified that she asked him to wear a condom and he said okay, but then didn’t) and failing to disclose the fact that he had herpes is fair game. He continued:
“Go for a million — that’s plaintiff’s message. God bless America. Go for it. Got some coffee to spill on me?”
So: he sounds delightful. The victim’s lawyer argued that in a “civilized society” sex partners must tell one another if they have an STD, and that relationships must not “be governed by the law of the jungle.”