Porn Factory Must Defend Itself Against HIV Claims

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A porn factory must defend itself against lawsuits brought by former actors who contracted HIV while filming adult movies, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Atain Specialty Insurance Company sued Peter Acworth, CEO of San Francisco-based porn website Kink.com, and his companies in November 2015. Atain claims it has no duty to cover litigation costs related to a rash of lawsuits brought by former actors.

Three actors, two male and one female, sued Acworth in 2014, claiming they contracted HIV while filming various adult films, such as “Bound in Public” in 2013. The performers say they were subjected to unprotected sex with members of the general public and told they’d be “out of a job” if they asked to use condoms.

In a ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge James Donato granted Atain’s motion for summary judgment, finding a “physical-sexual abuse exclusion” exempts the insurer from covering claims arising from sexual activity.

“The language of this exclusion is not ambiguous in the context of this policy and the circumstances of this case,” Donato wrote in his 6-page ruling. “Because the contractual language is clear and explicit, it governs.”

Donato’s ruling comes less than three weeks after Acworth’s porn empire suffered another setback in federal court.

On Nov. 27, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found State Compensation Insurance Fund also has no duty to defend Kink.com in HIV-related lawsuits because the claims are either governed exclusively by workers’ compensation or barred by an intentional harm exclusion in the policy.

Acworth, a British citizen, purchased the Armory, a 200,000-square foot Moorish castle and former National Guard training facility in San Francisco’s Mission District, in 2007 for $14.5 million.

It was during a film shot at the Armory that one actor, John Doe, claims he was blindfolded and forced to perform oral sex on dozens of “untested, unidentified members of the general public.” Doe says he had a cut in his mouth during the performance and tested positive for HIV two weeks later.

Earlier this year, Acworth announced he would stop filming porn at the Armory due to decreased demand for porn membership websites resulting from the ubiquitous availability of free pornography online. The historic San Francisco building still hosts the porn empire’s administrative offices as it transitions to function primarily as an event space.

Attorneys for Kink.com and Atain did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Kink.com is represented by Sarah Christine Young of Nielsen, Haley & Abbott in San Rafael. Atain is represented by Andrew King of Archer Norris in Walnut Creek.

In 2015, Kink.com attorney Karen Tynan told Courthouse News not to be fooled by “the sensational nature” of the allegations brought by former actors.

“None of these claims were made at the time of the shoots, and are easily refuted both by detailed shoot records, our testing protocols, and the video footage itself,” Tynan said.

 

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