Lis and the Single Girl: The Lowdown on the Laws Behind STDs

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Single and fabulous? Well then this is the column for you!

Every wish you had your own personal Carrie Bradshaw to answer your questions — not just about what to do if your boyfriend dumps you via text message — but serious issues that confront us? This special daily edition of “Lis on Law” will address topics that single women are faced and that everybody wonders about — but no one has time to figure out.

Between work, working out, dating and maintaining a social life, it’s tough to find time to do much else. So, read up and prepare to be fully armed for brunch this weekend with your friends with some super conversation topics! Your pals will be amazed!

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Can I sue someone if they gave me a sexually transmitted disease?

Though rare, some STD lawsuits brought by victims against their infectors have been successful. But when deciding whether or not to get in bed with litigation you should know that lawsuits are expensive, take a considerable amount of time and chances of winning are not great.

The success of these suits often hinges on the curability of the STD. While some STDs such as Syphilis, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are easily treated with antibiotics, other STDs such as Herpes, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and HIV/AIDS are not. Victims of incurable STDs have a better chance of success against their partner in suing for their affliction because these often have longer lasting effects that give rise to damages. Perhaps you remember a certain high profile case back in 2005 against an Atlanta Falcons quarterback, claiming he had infected her with Herpes. This suit eventually settled in the woman’s favor out of court for unspecified monetary damages.

STD lawsuits may be filed under either criminal or civil law depending on the circumstances. In about 27 states, it’s a felony to willfully expose others to an incurable STD such as HIV/AIDS. These circumstances though are quite limited. To succeed, exposure must be willful and intentional — innocently infecting another will not satisfy this requirement. STD victims also have the option of a civil suit, such as battery, fraud, negligence or infliction of psychological and emotional distress.

Winning an STD suit though may be challenging for several reasons. Plaintiffs often have several obstacles proving certain aspects of their case. As a plaintiff you’ll have to prove that the defendant is the infector, that the defendant knew they were a carrier of the STD, and that you did not know they were infected. Proving exactly which partner gave you this nightmare may be difficult since some STDs can remain dormant for months or even years, making it nearly impossible to track down the contaminator so long after infection. In the same vein, if the diseased was asymptomatic and without mal-intent it’s harder to find him legally negligent

Another hurdle regarding STD lawsuits — unpredictability. Defendants often settle out of court to spare dragging their name through the dirt and consequently, these cases are not part of settled case law. Without precedent, judges opinions may be inconsistent leaving plaintiffs with no idea as to whether they may have a successful case. My advice: seek legal advice about your situation if you think you have a valid claim and you have real damages. Be careful and practice safe sex. The last thing you want in your house when you’re married with children are monogrammed towels with “his and herpes.”

• Have a question for Lis? E-mail her and check back tomorrow for another edition of "Lis and the Single Girl."


When a Partner Gives You Herpes
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Lawsuits

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The information contained in this Web site feature entitled “LIS ON LAW,” is provided as a service to visitors of, and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney client relationship. FOX NEWS NETWORK, LLC makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site feature and its associated sites. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of your own counsel.

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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985. In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It. (Watch the Video) To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.