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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Herpes-Transmission Suit Fizzles in Florida

(CN) - After an arduous trial that involved descriptions of "genital ailments" and other intimidate details, a Florida woman with herpes failed to pin the blame on her ex.

Monica Lopez met John Clarke after breaking up with her live-in boyfriend in late 2004. She moved in with Clarke in February 2005.

That month Lopez suffered an outbreak of genital herpes, and Clarke had a similar affliction a few months later.

Both denied that they had herpes before they started dating, and both claimed that they were faithful to each other. Indeed tests that Clarke had recently undergone came back negative for various sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes.

Lopez sued Clarke for negligence, battery and fraudulent concealment, asking for more than $2.2 million. She claimed that she was afflicted with about six herpes outbreaks per year, each lasting five or six days.

A Palm Beach County jury sided with Lopez on the fraud claim only, awarding her $12,500.

Calling that trial "an ordeal" involving intimate details about the "sex lives, medical visits, and genital ailments" of both parties, the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed on April 1.

The jury had been asked to determine whether Clarke was infected with herpes before meeting Lopez; whether he knew of the infection and failed to warn Lopez; and whether the failure caused Lopez to contract herpes.

For the appellate panel in West Palm Beach, it was clear that Clarke deserved a directed verdict on the fraud claim.

"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," Judge Robert Gross wrote for a three-person panel. "As a matter of law, he lacked the requisite state of mind for both fraudulent concealment and battery."

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