(CN) - A Florida man need not face claims that he gave his now-ex-wife a sexually transmitted disease by sleeping with prostitutes, a state appeals court ruled.
Yulia Kohl sued Norman Kohl Jr. in 2009 for divorce and damages "for assault by way of the transmission of the human papillomavirus (HPV)."
A pap smear allegedly revealed that Yulia had contracted "high risk HPV, resulting in the development of precancerous cell changes."
Yulia claimed that that Norman had extramarital affairs, and employed prostitutes and escorts during their marriage.
Since Norman's previous wife had undergone a hysterectomy, he "knew or should have known he was exposed to HPV," the complaint alleged.
A judge in Martin County dismissed the action, however, after agreeing with Norman that Yulia failed to allege that he knew that he carried HPV.
Yulia failed to state a cause of action in negligence since she did not assert "actual knowledge of the infection on the part of the tortfeasor or actual knowledge that the infection could be transmitted through sexual intercourse," the court found.
A three-judge panel with the 4th District Florida Court of Appeal affirmed on Oct. 1.
The "linchpin" of the case was whether Norman knew he carried HPV, "which is uniquely prevalent and often not symptomatic," Judge Robert Gross wrote for the court in West Palm Beach.
Yulia's allegations of Norman's "high risk" activity did not lead to his knowledge that he carried the virus, the court found.
"We decline to open Pandora's box by imposing a duty in negligence for engaging in 'high-risk' sexual behavior," Gross wrote.
Any hysterectomy undergone by Norman's ex-wife also did not lead to knowledge of the virus, since the procedure is also used in the case of fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts, ectopic pregnancy, uterine prolapse and other conditions, according to the ruling.
"Given the disease's prevalence, and the fact that its effects may remain dormant for years if not decades, we hold that only a defendant with actual knowledge that he or she has HPV should be subject to liability in negligence for its transmission," Gross wrote.
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