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December 1, 2008

$12.5 Million Penalty in California HIV Criminalization Case

After a six-year legal battle, the California Supreme Court has ordered an HIV-positive man to pay his former wife $12.5 million for infecting her with the virus, the Los Angeles Times reports.  

According to court documents, the former husband and wife—identified as “Bridget B.” and “John B.”—each tested negative for the virus in the past. But in October 2000, two months after their honeymoon, Bridget B. discovered she was HIV positive.

For more than a year, Bridget B. believed she had infected her husband, but in 2002, she found e-mails indicating that John B. had engaged in unprotected sex with men he met through the Internet. Representing himself at trial, John B. argued that his ex-wife had contracted the virus first.

Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled that John B. acted in malice and fraud and must pay Bridget B. $5 million in future loss of earnings and $7.5 million in general damages, even if he files for bankruptcy.

In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled that people could be held liable for failing to inform a new partner of previous risky sexual behavior. Nationwide, HIV criminalization laws have become widespread.

Search: criminalization, California Supreme Court

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