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Sexual Disease Transmission Lawsuits

SDT TestSexually transmitted diseases can affect your life in many ways. In California, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully give another person an STD. If the disease is HIV, the offense is a felony. A person who intentionally or negligently infects another with an STD can also be civilly liable, so a victim may sue for money damages.

A person is civilly liable for transmitting an STD if the person either:

  • Knowingly infects another person with an STD; or
  • Has constructive knowledge of an STD, and fails to share that information with a sexual partner.
Constructive Knowledge

Constructive knowledge means that the transmitting partner either knew or should have known about the STD. If a person knows or should know that he or she has an STD, that person has a duty to warn any sexual partners of the condition.

Constructive knowledge does not necessarily require actual knowledge of the STD. In California, every person who engages in sexual conduct has a responsibility to a partner to investigate his or her own health. Thus, if a person has reason to know that he or she is infected with an STD, the person should visit a doctor to further investigate the problem. This is especially true if the person represented him or herself as being monogamous and free of disease, and the injured partner agreed to stop using condoms on the basis of that representation.


Whether the sexual partners were married at the time of the transmission of the STD does not affect the viability of the negligent transmission claim. Thus, if a spouse negligently or intentionally infects a person with an STD, that person may sue the spouse and recover money damages.


Some people believe that they cannot transmit herpes or other STDs unless they are currently having an outbreak, but this is not true. Many infections can be transmitted even if the partner appears to be healthy and disease-free. Thus, even if there is no current outbreak, those who have constructive knowledge of an STD must warn all sexual partners of the infection.


If a person has been negligently or intentionally infected with an STD, that person can recover monetary compensation for many types of harm, including:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Embarrassment;
  • Medical bills, both past and future; and
  • Lost wages related to the disease.

If the wrongdoer’s actions were especially egregious, the infected party may be able to recover punitive damages as well.

Homeowner’s Insurance

In some cases, a personal liability provision in a sexual partner’s homeowner’s insurance policy, covering injuries, may cover a personal injury claim for the transmission of an STD. However, some policies specifically exclude this sort of injury. If there is a possibility that an insurance policy may cover such a claim, the policyholder should give timely notice to the insurance company and seek the help of an attorney to evaluate the policy’s coverage.

If you have been infected with an STD, you have suffered both health complications and a betrayal of trust. Please contact the dedicated San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation.

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