A Sad Story Makes for a New Law
In an important ruling sure to spark debate around the country, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a husband may be held civilly liable for infecting his wife with HIV even if the man did not actually know that he carried the diseased. It was enough, a bitterly-divided majority held, that the man's sexual history created for him a reasonable "reason to know" that he might both get the disease and then pass it along to his spouse. Here is the link to the Court ruling and here is the link to my column on the topic.
As the Justices described it, the story that generated the lawsuit is horrible. A man convinces his wife to engage in unprotected sex with him. They both become infected with HIV-- later, he gets full-blown AIDS. He accuses her of bringing the disease to the marriage. She then discovers that both before and during the marriage he engaged in sex with men. He points to a negative AIDS test for an insurance application. Now they are fighting over how much pre-trial discovery she is entitled to as she tries to win her civil case against him.
The central question of the case was this: Should the husband be liable only if he had "actual" knowledge of his disease? (In which case he'd probably succeed with his defense in the case). Or should the law presume that he had "constructive" knowledge of his disease based upon his behavior, his sexual history? (In which case he would probably lose his fight). Four of the seven Justices on California's highest court voted to broaden the scope of the law. Two of the Justices declared that this was a terrible mistake-- that the legislature is the proper forum for such policy choices. You will hear a lot more about this case, and this issue, as word gets out about the ruling and as activists all over the country begin chiming in on its effects.
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Posted by: Concerned Nurse | July 5, 2006 02:00 PM
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