A husband goes to China on a business trip, and the wife hopes that he brings her back a gift when he returns. What she receives, however, is not what she wants: she learns that she is on the receiving end of, not only marital infidelity but also a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Her husband, a powerhouse banker, confesses that in his travels, he has unprotected sex with hookers, and that he also has a girlfriend on the side in the United States.
The wife is livid. Not only faithlessness but also an STD. The devastation that she feels in learning that she has been infected with an STD by a faithless spouse levels her even as she decides to divorce her husband. Moreover, she needs medical care that interrupts her career.
However, in addition to a divorce, she has grounds for a lawsuit, claiming damages for breach of trust, loss of heath, loss of income and other claims, according to Charles Jamieson, a West Palm Beach, Fla., 26-year veteran family law attorney who has represented clients in divorce cases in more than 20 states.
Lawsuits involving transmission of STDs are a personal injury claim and based on the concepts of battery, fraud or negligence. In addition, some courts have held that the confidential relationship between a husband and a wife imposes a duty upon the infected spouse to disclose his or her disease to the other. Moreover, a number of states make it a crime not to inform a sexual partner of STD.
A defense that the philandering spouse can raise against such claims is that he or she did not know that he or she was infected with an STD. However, given his admissions, he will not be successful in using this defense.
Most states require the plaintiff to raise any other of negligence, battery, personal injury claim, harm from domestic violence, or other civil claims as part of the divorce.
Failure to litigate these claims in the divorce means the plaintiff loses her right to litigate them after the divorce. A lawyer must know every claim the wife has, and even if she pleads this claim in her divorce petition, she can still request a jury trial on this issue. In this case, the evidence against the wayward husband appears to be strong, so the case probably will not go to trial. The husband will not want to air “dirty laundry” in public about his sexual misadventures and his STD.