Can I Sue My Boyfriend for Giving Me Herpes?

California law makes it unlawful for someone to knowingly or negligently infect their sexual partner with an STD.  If your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner infected you with herpes, HIV, Hepatitis, or another serious infection, you may be entitled to compensation.  The victim of negligent or intentional transmission of an STD  can seek damages for their pain and suffering, medications, and other expenses.  


1.  Can I Sue My Boyfriend, Girlfriend, or Partner for Infecting Me?


Yes, assuming that your partner was negligent or knowingly infected you without telling you they had an infection, you should be able to sue them in court.  Generally, California STD law makes it clear that someone who knew or should have known they were infected must warn and protect their partner.  In fact, intentionally and knowingly infecting someone with a harmful STD virus may be a crime in California.  Please keep in mind, however, that each person’s circumstances are different, and you should seek a free consultation with a competent lawyer who can evaluate your situation.  

2.  What If the Person Who Gave Me an STD was My Spouse?

It does not matter that you were married at the time you got infected.  If your husband or wife was negligent in giving you a Sexually Transmitted Disease, and assuming the statute of limitations has not run on your case, you can file a civil lawsuit against them and seek compensation in court.  If you found out you’ve been infected, please do not delay and consult with a lawyer who can help you evaluate your case as soon as possible.

3.  What if My Partner Says He Did Not Know He Had an Infection?

Actual knowledge is not required.  In John B. v. Superior Court, 38 Cal. 4th 1177 (2006), the California Supreme Court ruled that liability for transmission of an STD was not limited only to those individuals who knew they had a disease.  The Court emphasized that every person engaging in a sexual conduct has the responsibility to his or her partners to investigate their own health.  Specifically, “the tort of negligent transmission of HIV does not depend solely on actual knowledge of HIV infection and would extend at least to those situations where the actor, under the totality of the circumstances, has reason to know of the infection.”  This is especially true where “a defendant … falsely represented himself as monogamous and disease-free and insisted the couple stop using condoms; and a plaintiff … agreed to stop using condoms in reliance on those false representations.”

4.  What If the Person I Had Sex with Did Not Have an Outbreak?

Many people mistakenly assume that herpes and other infections cannot be transmitted if there is no outbreak. Not so.  Infections such as genital herpes, HSV-2, HPV, H.I.V. and many others can be transmitted even when the partner looks perfectly healthy.  Even if your partner thought he or she did not need to warn you because they were symptom-free, they may still be legally responsible for your condition.

5.  Which Infections Does the Law Protect Me Against?

In California (this post does not address the law in other states), you have recourse if you suffered many different types of STD-related injuries.    Here are some examples of infections that frequently result in litigation:  HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, HSV-1, HSV-2, HPV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and others.  Please consult a lawyer in your area regarding the specifics of your case.

6.  What Damages Can I Recover?

Depending on individual circumstances, such lawsuits can result in significant verdicts or settlements.  Of course, results in other cases are not a guarantee for your case, as the circumstances of each case vary.  The law generally provides that victims of STD injuries can recover for their lifelong pain and suffering, embarrassment  inconvenience, past and future medical bills, related lost wages, etc.  For example, in Behr v. Redmond, 193 Cal. App. 4th 517 (2011), the jury awarded the woman who was infected with herpes $500,000 for past non-economic loss, $1 million for future pain and suffering, and $2.75 million in punitive damages. In some circumstances, a sexually transmitted virus called HPV can even cause cancer.  Additional damages may be thus available to individuals who were diagnosed with HPV-related cancer.

7.  Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover My Claim?

In some circumstances, your sexual partner’s home insurance policy may provide coverage and compensation for your injuries.  In State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Mark Eddy, 218 Cal. App. 3d 958 (1990), a man who did not know he had herpes negligently infected his partner.  A claim was made against his homeowner’s insurance policy for coverage, and the court ultimately found that the personal liability provision in his policy covered the girlfriend’s injuries.  Unfortunately, more and more insurance policies these days have a listed exclusion for this type of an injury. As a result, fewer insurers today provide coverage in STD tort cases than before. In short, in a case where insurance may possibly provide coverage, a timely notice of the claim should be immediately given to the insurance company (as soon as the insured knows or has reason to know of the claim), and the policy should be carefully evaluated for exclusions, limitations, and applicability of coverage.

8.  What if I Was Infected at the Hospital or Clinic?

These serious and often life-threatening infections are not limited to an intimate setting.  Unfortunately, there are occasions when a doctor negligently infects someone, or when a blood is not screened properly before a transfusion by the lab, or when medical instruments are not adequately sterilized.  Tragically, such negligence often leaves the patients with permanent and sometimes life-threatening injuries.  At Cross Prescott APC, we represent victims who were wrongfully infected by a life-threatening virus such as HIV or Hepatitis.  In medical malpractice cases, there is a short statute of limitations within which you must file your lawsuit. Therefore, if you think you were injured due to medical error, seek a free consultation right away.  

9.  Will I Have to Go Public?

Victims of STD torts are often concerned about going to court because they do not want others to find out about their condition.  Fortunately, many courts will allow a victim of sexual misconduct to sue anonymously.  If you desire to protect your privacy, you should ask your attorneys to petition to the court on your behalf to allow you to sue the person who infected you, without revealing your real name and using a pseudonym instead.  Attorneys handling these types of cases understand that privacy is a very important concern and will try to protect you from unnecessary publicity.

10.  Where Can I Find a Lawyer to Help Me?

If you are located outside of California, it is very important for you to contact a personal injury in your state because attorneys from other states are typically not licensed in more than one state and are not allowed to offer you legal advice.  Therefore, please do not delay and contact a personal injury lawyer in your area.  If you are located in California, you should, likewise, contact a personal injury attorney in your specific geographic area.

We represent clients in STD tort cases allover California.  Presently, however, our firm is not accepting new STD tort cases.  We are also not able to provide referrals to other lawyers.  Nevertheless, if you feel that your case involves unusual circumstances and warrants a closer look, feel free to fill out our contact form, and we will call you to discuss your case.

*DISCLAIMER:  The information contained in this post and on this website may contain LEGAL ADVERTISEMENT.  It does not constitute and should not be construed as a legal advice.  Similar results are not guaranteed.  Past results are no guarantee of future results.  The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only. The verdicts and settlements discussed were not handled by our firm and are provided for informational purposes.  The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, this information may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed, nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. 

by Natalie Prescott

3 Responses to Can I Sue My Boyfriend for Giving Me Herpes?

  1. shivani says:

    is there any form you can get a person to sign, confirming they do not have an std, if they lie they are liable to get sued?

  2. Natalie Prescott says:

    Shivani, thank you for your comment. The answer to your question may depend on the particular circumstances of your case, and I encourage you to call me at (619) 781-1360 for a free consultation. Generally, however, a written representation that someone is STD-free can serve as evidence in court. Additionally, someone who knowingly misrepresents that they are healthy and free of any STDs can be liable and can be sued in California.

    Disclaimer: This response is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Our attorneys are licensed in California and do not advice clients on laws of other states.

  3. Erin says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I had no idea that I had a legal right to seek compensation from the man who infected me. Your article is very informative, and I’m glad I came across it!

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