A woman from Portland, Oregon has been awarded $900,000 after she was infected with a sexually transmitted disease that her partner kept a secret.
The 49-year-old woman brought a lawsuit against a retired dentist after she contracted genital herpes. According to the woman’s attorney, Randall Vogt, such cases rarely go to a jury trial because they are difficult to prove and typically prove embarrassing for the claimants.
The award issued in this trial is reportedly the largest of its kind in Oregon – a similar case in 1996 ended in a $550,000 settlement.
The victim, who filed the lawsuit under a pseudonym, told the jury that she suffered painful outbreaks and depression following a sexual encounter with the 69-year-old man. The pair had initially met through the dating website eHarmony.
Vogt spoke after the trial on behalf of the woman, telling the Associated Press: “I told the jury he’s dangerous, and I believe he is.”
The retired dentist, who also remained anonymous throughout the lawsuit, has had herpes since 1991. He defended himself by saying he did not know he was contagious. He claimed he was not experiencing an active outbreak at the time the pair had sex, during their fourth date.
Yet the jury’s verdict found that the defendant was negligent in keeping his condition private. Juror Noah Brimhall told The Oregonian newspaper:
“We all felt he should have told her. He had the responsibility to tell her.”
Genital herpes is one of the most widespread STDs in the U.S., and affects roughly 1 of 6 adults in the United States. A lack of visible sores is no guarantee that transmission will not occur.