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HPV Lawsuit

Dear Dr.'s,

There was a recent lawsuit in Grand Rapids, Iowa, concerning HPV Genital warts and informing a partner prior to exposure. The link concerning the article can be found at: http://www.globegazette.com/articles/2008/08/11/news/latest/doc48a09d430026b913687093.txt . I realize that you are not a lawyer, but from the information that you have said on this website it appears that it is nearly impossible (if not impossible) to prove who gave anyone HPV Genital warts because it can lay dormant for years. In addition the fact that nearly 90% of the population is exposed to it at sometime in their life makes every partner a possible transmitter of the virus. I am curious if because the defendant was found negligent in this case for not informing his partner about exposing her to HPV Genital warts, if your advice about informing future partners will be different now that it appears there could be legal consequences for not informing a partner prior to exposing him/her to HPV Genital warts?
5 Responses
239123 tn?1267651214
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Interesting case.  Based on the news report, I find it surprising that a judge and/or jury went along with an award.  In my experience, the legal perspective on cases of STD transmission usually has been that the newly infected partner had as much responsibility for self-protection as did the originally infected partner for transmitting the infection.  If the news report is accurate in its implication that the male in the case had no reason to know he had HPV, I find the outcome even more surprising.  It might be different if the male had in fact been diagnosed with genital warts recently and overtly lied about it.

My guess is that there is more to the case than meets the eye.  In my experience in consulting on cases of accused STD transmission (usually related to herpes), most of them had a context of other bad things in the relationship -- i.e., part of the story often was a financial issue, a divorce, sexual assault, etc, which may not come out in the media.  While in theory such things shouldn't influence a legal decision, in practical terms they can have a tremendous influence on a judge and/or jury.  Sometimes the situation might be analagous to giving Al Capone 30 years for tax evasion when they couldn't make murder and racketeering stick.

My advice on HPV transmission and informing partners definitely will not change on account of this story.  But it's an interesting situation.  Thanks for posting it.

Regards--- HHH, MD
Avatar universal
Just to be clear, your use of the word "recently" refers to approximately 3-6 months after no signs of warts were present, as stated in other posts?
239123 tn?1267651214
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
In the context of my reply above, I meant "recently" to mean if he still had visible warts that had not been treated, or that had not yet gone away on treatment.  My "other posts" talked about my general advice to patients, but certainly that doesn't create any sort of legal standard nor should anybody interpret my comments that way.
Avatar universal
I agree with Dr. Handsfield, interesting case indeed. However, if you investigate a little further you will find:

Rossiter said Evans later admitted he had:

Sex in the six months prior to their encounter (which he initially denied).

Had a relationship with another woman after he and Rossiter had become involved. Evans told her the woman had symptoms like hers, Rossiter said.

For what it's worth, he was also accused of infecting her with BV.

http://www.muscatinejournal.com/articles/2008/08/05/news/doc4898a1eb2019e847078512.txt

239123 tn?1267651214
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Even with that information, I still find it hard to assign sole responsibility to him.  And it is a real stretch to assign liability to transmission of BV, which has not been scientifically demonstrated to be sexually transmitted from men to women.  Finally, if every sexually active person can be held legally liable for lying about other partnerships, a whole lot of the world will be in a position of suing a whole lot of the rest of the world.  Still, this supports my initial suspicion that there likely was more to the case than has come to light publicly.  There may be more still that hasn't come out.
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