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$1.5 Million Award in Negligent Transmission of an STD

On Point News reports that an Iowa man who transmitted HPV to his girlfriend is liable to her for $700,000 in compensatory damages and $800,000 in punitive damages.

Karly Rossiter, 25, has been diagnosed with both strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), one of which causes genital warts and the other cell abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer. In a petition filed in March 2007, she alleged that Dr. Alan Evans, a Muscatine, Iowa, dentist, infected her during their 18-month relationship and failed to warn her to take appropriate steps to protect herself from infection. (source)

The jury rejected Rossiter’s battery claim — which would have required a determination that he knowingly gave her HPV — a claim he denies. While there was some testimony that suggested he may have known, there is no FDA approved test for HPV in men, and it shows no symptoms in some men.

Nevertheless, Dr. Evans volunteered that he was “disease free” — a warranty that was apparently void. The jury found him responsible for negligently infecting his ex girlfriend. Under that standard, Rossiter only needed to prove that “under the totality of the circumstances,” Evans had reason to know that he was infected.

This seems like a fair decision. More importantly, it demonstrates that our existing tort laws are sufficient to cover even negligent, but unknowing, transmission of an STD. This should be another nail in the coffin for any calls to create a new legal scheme for “intentional sex torts.”

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