Palm Beach News

Florida Man Did Not Know He Had Herpes Before Giving It to Woman, Court Rules

Love may not last forever, but herpes certainly does. And then things get really messy when courts get involved. But one such Palm Beach case that revealed the twists and turns of a relationship gone sour due to STDs has been overturned after an appeals court ruled that the man didn't knowingly give his lady herpes, even though she claimed he did.

In 2005, Monica Lopez sued ex-lover John Clarke for giving her herpes. But after a Palm Beach jury originally awarded her $12,500, the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed that ruling based on what the court calls "fraudulent concealment." The court said it was on the woman to prove her then-boyfriend knew he had herpes. Yet, two weeks before the two met, tests on the man came back negative for STDs, including herpes. And that, the court says, was enough to show he had no knowledge he was passing on his herpes.

The trial, described as an "ordeal" by the court, was inundated with intimate details regarding genitalia and the sexual history of both parties. 

Things stared off real sweet, as most relationships do. Moncia and John had met at a party in late 2004 not long after she had split from her live-in boyfriend. Monica, a newly single gal, and John, a divorcee, soon hit it off and eventually moved in together. But a month into living together, Monica had an outbreak of genital herpes. John himself had an outbreak a few months after that. Both claimed they were faithful to each other, and both claimed neither had been diagnosed with herpes before.

And thus, a pickle for the once-loving couple.

While John's tests prior to meeting Monica came back negative for herpes, she still sued him for negligence, battery, and fraudulent concealment. According to court documents, Monica sought more than $2.2 million from John, claiming she had been suffering from five to six days' worth of herpes outbreaks about six times a year since that initial outbreak. 

While the two were together, Monica suffered injuries from a serious car accident. Days following the wreck, she checked herself into an ER complaining of vaginal swelling. She also complained of difficulty urinating. A gynecologist who examined her believed Monica's symptoms were consistent with a herpes outbreak. 

As for John, court documents say his ex-wife had contracted herpes years before they met. Following their divorce in 1999, John had tested positive for herpes type-1 but negative for herpes type-2.

Herpes-1 has outbreaks on the mouth, while herpes-2 has outbreaks on the genitals. 

Before having sex with Monica in 2005, John was tested for STDs, including herpes. He tested negative for herpes type-2. In wasn't until four months later that he reported his first genital outbreak. This time a test showed he was positive for herpes type-2. 

Following a trial that featured expert testimony as well as both Monica and John divulging intimate details about their sex lives, medical visits, and genital ailments, the original jury sided with Monica on her fraudulent concealment claim but not on negligence and battery. The jury then awarded her a total of $12,500 for medical expenses and an additional $5,000 for past pain and suffering as well as future pain and suffering.

But this month, the appeals court reversed that ruling, pointing to the fact that John had seen a urologist before beginning his relationship with Monica, where he tested for a clean bill of health.

According to the ruling, John's visit to the urologist before beginning his relationship with Monica keeps her from establishing that he knew that had herpes type-2. 

"Negligence law imposes liability where a defendant has actual or constructive knowledge that he is infected with an STD," the ruling reads. 

Added Judge Robert Gross in the ruling for a three-person panel: "Before starting his sexual relationship with Lopez, in the very same month, Clarke consulted a urologist, was tested, and obtained what he reasonably believed was a clean bill of health. As a matter of law, he lacked the requisite state of mind for both fraudulent concealment and battery."

Florida Herpes Case by Chris Joseph

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph