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Tuesday 10 June 2008

US: Date set for ground-breaking Californian civil liability case

A court date has finally been set in the high-profile 'Damages-style' case featuring the California ex-husband and wife who are suing each other for allegedly infecting the other with HIV without disclosing the risks.

The case of Bridget B. and John B. made headlines in July 2006 when the California state supreme court ruled that people can be sued for transmitting HIV to a sexual partner, even if they don’t know their HIV status – although the first lawsuit was filed as long ago as April 2002.

The article, below, from includes quite a lot of detail of their back story - which appears littered with inconsistencies on both sides – but also features old-style HIV reporting language, such as the erroneous phrase, 'full blown AIDS'.

I've no doubt that there will be plenty more to be written about this case in October...

Suit Approved For Woman Who Alleges Ex-Husband Gave Her AIDS
June 9, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- A judge cleared the way Monday for a woman to seek damages from her ex-husband, who she sued for allegedly giving her the AIDS virus.

The former couple, referred to in court papers as Bridget B. and John B., married in July 2000 and divorced in October 2003. Both were diagnosed with HIV in October 2000, although he had tested negative in June and August of that year.

Calling it "indeed a tragic case," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu said the now-42-year-old woman had no reason to suspect her husband was responsible for her condition until November 2001 at the earliest, so she met the one-year statute of limitations to file her lawsuit when she did so in April 2002.

The woman's ex-husband maintained she had to have brought the case by October 2001, a year after she learned from a doctor that she had the AIDS virus. Doctors determined in January 2002 that John B. had full-blown AIDS, according to his ex-wife's court papers. However, he said after Monday's hearing -- in which he acted as his own attorney -- that his condition has improved and he no longer has full-blown AIDS.

John B., also 42, said he was disappointed with the judge's ruling and is hoping for a better outcome during the trial on his former wife's damage claims, set for Oct. 6. Bridget B. said she was pleased with getting over the initial hurdle in the case, but declined further comment.

One of her lawyers, Kathleen M. Grassini, said she was happy for her client."I think it was really important for him to have to come down and look her in the eye," Grassini said. "She trusted him and he destroyed that trust."

Testifying earlier Monday, Bridget B. said her husband's physician told her that her husband had previously tested negative, so she therefore believed she must have given him HIV.

"I felt like I was killing my husband," the woman said. "I knew for sure we were going to die." Her husband began talking of committing suicide, she testified.

The woman said that although she had never had unprotected sex with anyone other than her husband and had only two serious previous relationships, she did not know enough about HIV at the time to make herself question the doctor's conclusions. She said she thought she might have gotten the virus while she had a cut in her skin or even from getting bitten by an insect.

She said she and her husband made a contract with each other to work through their struggle together. With the help of her therapist, who told her that women seldom transmit the AIDS virus to men, Bridget B. began her own research on HIV. In the process, she also uncovered her husband's secret e-mails revealing homosexual relationships with men, another of her attorneys, said in his opening statement.

According to Bridget B.'s court papers, her ex-husband's secret e-mails are evidence of his "rampant, high-risk secret (homo)sexual lifestyle." The e-mails show he "actually acquired HIV through his high-risk sexual behavior," her lawsuit alleges.

The information led her to believe for the first time in November 2001 that her husband was responsible for their medical conditions, not her, her lawyers maintain.

John B. later admitted to her that he had two sexual relationships with male partners before their marriage, she said. He also had once confided in her that two men molested him when he was 15, she testified.

Cross-examined by her ex-husband as to why she didn't assume after her October 2000 diagnosis that he was the one who gave her the virus, she said it was because she believed in him.

"I just married my husband, and I wouldn't have married him if I didn't trust him," she said. "There was no reason to suspect him -- after his negative tests -- that he was the person."

The state Supreme Court ruled in July 2006 that Bridget B. could sue her former partner for allegedly infecting her with the virus that causes AIDS, even if he did not know he was HIV-positive at the time. But the high court also set limits on how much information she could get about his past sexual partners.

Bridget and John B. now blame the other for their conditions. She filed her lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in April 2002, alleging negligence, fraud and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Earlier Monday, Treu denied John B.'s motion to delay the first trial for about three months so he could sell a condominium in order to pay for an attorney. Treu said John B. had not filed the proper motion and ordered the trial to go forward with him representing himself.

John B.'s previous attorneys recently withdrew from the case.



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