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• Maryland appeals court says dog owners can be held strictly liable for pit bull attacks. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous." Tracey v. Solesky
• Woman who has been diagnosed as a sex addict sues a school district for failing to prevent her from having sex with male students on the school bus when she was in 11th grade.
Barksdale v. Egg Harbor Township Bd. of Ed.
• Civil rights activist challenges Georgia's "stand your ground law." "By not defining what actions create a reasonable perception justifying the use of deadly force, the Act potentially deprives all Georgia[n]s of the right to life without due process of law." Hutchins v. Deal
• Former patient of a Rhode Island doctor sues him for featuring her in a book about drug addiction. "Plaintiff had expected, as any reasonable patient would, that her private conversations during her treatment sessions with the Defendant would remain private and confidential."
Lisnoff v. Stein
• Class action alleges the YMCA deceives consumers by representing that it practices "Christian" values while allowing its gyms to be used for gay sex trysts. "YMCAs around the country ... are currently being used as brothels for cruising, with the YMCA's knowledge and implicit consent."
Keister v. YMCA
• Social workers are not liable for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old boy by a 16-year-old male placed in an adoptive home. "To rule against the individual defendants in this case would definitely break new ground."
Doe v. Braddy
• Student sues college for refusing to grant her the "reasonable accommodation" of a single room after she complained about her roommate's exhibitionist behavior.
Blankmeyer v. Stonehill College
• School district can be sued over a guidance counselor's sexual relationship with a student who was over the age of consent. "The inherent imbalance of power between a guidance counselor in a public school and a student may render opportunistic sexual predation sufficiently shocking, even with a 'consenting' student over sixteen, to form the basis of a substantive due process claim."
Doe v. Fournier
• Utah judge finds a "credible threat" that Utah County officials will prosecute a polygamist and his wives for bigamy. The officials' acts "suggest that an actual prosecution of Plaintiffs is forthcoming."
Brown v. Herbert
• Louisville, Ky., strip club sues a competitor for displaying an electronic sign outside a convention center that said "Don't go to Godfathers, their girls are ugly and have crabs."
The Godfather v. Trixie's Lounge
• A lawyer cannot sue two women he dated for posting derogatory comments about him on liarscheatersrus.com. "[W]hen viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion." Coulotte v. Ryncarz
• Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers and Whiteclay, Neb., bars for enabling alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The illegal trade in alcohol has "caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the [tribe]."
Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Schwarting
Woman Wins $1.5M in STD Transmission Case
In what may be one of the larger verdicts of its kind, an Iowa jury has awarded $1.5 million to a woman who sued a man for infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease after telling her he was disease-free.
Karly Rossiter, 25, has been diagnosed with both strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), one of which causes genital warts and the other cell abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer. In a petition filed in March 2007, she alleged that Dr. Alan Evans, a Muscatine, Iowa, dentist, infected her during their 18-month relationship and failed to warn her to take appropriate steps to protect herself from infection.
Evans denied having HPV and Rossiter was not able to prove he actually knew he was infected. The FDA has not approved an HPV test for men and some men may have the virus without developing symptoms.
But after more than 10 hours of deliberations, a Muscatine County District Court jury last week found Evans liable for negligent transmission of HPV, awarding Rossiter $700,000 in compensatory damages and $800,000 in punitive damages.
“That's a lot of money for Iowa,” says Rossiter attorney Jeffrey R. Tronvold (Eells & Tronvold, Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Based on the average annual income in Muscatine County, the jury “gave her 30 years of work.”
Rossiter also alleged that Evans infected her with bacterial vaginitis. But that disease, unlike genital warts, is permanently curable.
Actual knowledge of infection is usually not a requirement for the tort of negligent infliction of an STD. Those who, "under the totality of the circumstances, have reason to know they are infected" may be liable under the standard of "constructive" knowledge.
But there does not appear to be any precedent for finding constructive knowledge of an HPV infection. In McPherson v. McPherson, 712 A.2d 1043 (1998), the Maine Supreme Judicial Court cleared a man of liability for infecting his wife with the virus, in part because –- like Evans -– he had no medical diagnosis of any STD.
According to Rossiter's petition, she met Evans in December 2004 when she went to his office for dental work. They began dating and sometime before the New Year, he “volunteered that he was free from any type of sexually transmitted disease.”
On New Year's Day 2005, the suit said, they had a sexual encounter with genital contact but “did not have intercourse.” Then a few days later,
Evans raised the topic of sexually transmitted diseases again, and specifically inquired as to whether Karly had ever been specifically tested for Human Papilloma Virus.
As a result of that inquiry, Rossiter went to her gynecologist and got tested. In April 2005, she learned that she could have the virus and about a year after the New Year's Day encounter with Evans she developed genital warts.
Tronvold questions why Evans would have asked Rossiter about being tested for HPV “if he didn't have something ... It's a bizarre question to ask somebody.” By not warning her to take precautions, he says, “he failed to do what a reasonable person would have done under the circumstances.”
The verdict form shows that $500,000 of Rossiter's compensatory damages was for future mental pain and suffering. The punitives were for Evans's "willful and wanton disregard" of her safety.
The jury rejected a battery claim which required the plaintiff to prove Evans deliberately infected her.
Evans filed a notice of appeal in November 2008.
As On Point reports here, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict in a Dec. 30, 2009 opinion.
"I have no idea why the jury seem[s] to have overlooked the testimony and medical records showing the lady had a bad pap [smear] two years before meeting the man ... Did anyone hear the male's testimony that he did not have sex with her until months AFTER her Jan. 11, 2005 positive HPV finding?” -- Ruth
"This seems like a fair decision. More importantly, it demonstrates that our existing tort laws are sufficient to cover even negligent, but unknowing, transmission of an STD. This should be another nail in the coffin for any calls to create a new legal scheme for 'intentional sex torts.'” -- Legal Satyricon
"[T]he notion that this infection is worth $1.5 million is beyond belief.” -- from Medskool.com
By Matthew Heller
Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.
Hotel Sued Over Slaying of Escort by 'Craigslist Killer'
The mother of a prostitute slain by the “Craigslist killer” at a Marriott hotel in Boston has alleged in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that the hotel's operator is liable for her daughter's death because it failed to prevent prostitution from occurring on its premises.
Court Extends Doctors' Liability for Prescription Gaffes
The Utah Supreme Court has given a boost to the battle against prescription drug abuse by ruling that medical professionals can be sued over injuries to a nonpatient that were allegedly caused by drugs they carelessly prescribed to patients.
Girl's Slaying Tests Cruise Line Liability
The family of a 15-year-old girl who was killed in the crossfire of a gang shootout on a Caribbean island has asked an appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit that tests the liability of cruise ship operators for onshore injuries to passengers.
Bystander Claims "Swoon and Fall" Injuries at Church
In yet another “swoon and fall” case against a church, an Illinois woman claims she was injured during a church service when a parishioner who was receiving the “spirit” fell backward, knocking several other worshippers into her.
Jurors' Comments Fuel New Trial Bid in Bullying Case
Jurors may have opened the door to a new trial in a Maryland school bullying case by saying they returned a verdict for the defense because they were afraid of setting a bad precedent for school systems throughout the country.
Abuse Victim Can Sue Ex-DA Over 'Sexting' Messages
A Wisconsin judge has protected a domestic violence victim from a rogue prosecutor, finding that she can sue him for sending her text messages in which he pressured her to have sex with him.
Four Loko Maker Says Users Knew of Health Dangers
The maker of Four Loko has previewed its defense of a slew of product liability lawsuits, arguing that the physical effects of the energy drink's mixture of alcohol and caffeine — far from being an undisclosed risk to consumers — are precisely what made it so popular.
U.S. v. Arpaio
Subject: Civil rights
Schultz v. Medina Valley
Subject: School prayer
Document: Non-Kumbaya order
Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare
Subject: Sexual harassment
Jackson v. Paula Deen
Subject: Sexual harassment
Marsh v. Air Tran Airways
Subject: Roaches on a plane
Peterson/Pryde v. Thyden
Court: Montgomery (Va.) Circuit
Subject: Virginia Tech shootings
Verdict: $8 million
Sheridan v. Cherry
Court: L.A. Superior
Subject: Wrongful termination
Brown v. Herbert
Court: USDC, Utah
Hearing: Motion to dismiss polygamy case