Missouri Lawyer Dealing with STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) Lawsuits
In 2000, attorney Dan Pingelton, of the Pingelton Law Firm, convinced the Missouri Court of Appeals that an unmarried person should recover damages after being infected with an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). This case set a new precedent, and Mr. Pingelton is now sought after by attorneys and their clients across the nation with STD transmission cases.
There are many factors to consider in an STD transmission case. To have a valid claim, an attorney must prove that the person accused of transmitting the disease knew that he or she had the disease. The specific disease involved is also important: transmitting the HIV (AIDS) virus knowingly is a felony, and herpes, as an incurable, lifelong condition, is also grounds for a suit. However, many curable STDs, such as gonorrhea or syphilis, may not warrant a lawsuit. (For more information, please visit our STD Transmission FAQ)
Upholding the Strictest Confidentiality
Regardless of your situation, Mr. Pingelton can meet with you in a free initial consultation and discuss your situation. He upholds the strictest standards of confidentiality and always maintains a professional practice. If he takes your case, he can do all his work on contingency, refusing any payment until he wins you money.
The Pingelton Law Firm maintains a client-centered practice, in which each client receives plenty of one-on-one attention from our lawyer. We believe in providing plenty of free information and maintaining a comfortable, informal office.
The Pingelton Law Firm broke legal ground in Missouri 2000 when it successfully argued in the Missouri Court of Appeals that an unmarried person can recover damages for the negligent transmission of the herpes virus. We have had many calls regarding this, and we present here some things to consider.
Should You Pursue an STD Case?
The decision to proceed with a lawsuit for the wrongful infection of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) must be made carefully after reviewing several issues with an attorney experienced in this area. The non-legal considerations will vary with each individual. Legally, there are several “guideposts” to consider.
1. The “Statute of Limitations”
Every lawsuit must be filed within a certain period of time. Statutes control the various time periods for each type of legal action. Generally, for personal injury cases (not resulting in death), the statute of limitations is five years. The tricky part is figuring out when the time clock starts running. Generally, the period begins when the person damaged first learns of the injury. In the years ahead, we expect the courts will address the various nuances associated with statute of limitations issues involving STD cases. For example, does the clock start from the first intimate contact resulting in infection, at the first signs of infection, or when the infection is first diagnosed? These issues are left to the future, although some common sense legal guidelines should be considered now. For example, a person who has suffered from herpes for ten years has probably lost the ability to sue the wrongdoer.
2. The Type of STD
The case decided by the Court of Appeals dealt specifically with herpes, but the legal reasoning employed by the court should apply to any serious sexually transmitted disease. Herpes is particularly harmful because there is currently no medical cure for the virus. Although the symptoms can be controlled at times, victims suffer painful outbreaks in addition to dealing with the fact that the virus can be transferred to any future partner. A caesarian section is required to prevent transfer to the baby of an infected mother. AIDS and the HIV virus have been classified as special concerns by the Missouri legislature, which has made it a felony to knowingly infect a person with the virus. Generally, as discussed in “Legal Damages” below, those STDs causing more serious and permanent damage will warrant more relief in the court system.
3. Legal Damages
A lawsuit seeking compensation for a STD injury is serious business. Experienced attorneys will ensure a client appreciates that while the client is understandably angry and hurt, the courts cannot exact retribution of the kind the other person may truly deserve. It is not fair, but all the law allows in these types of cases is the award of money. Only serious cases should be pursued. For instance, a mild case of “nonspecific urethritis” (an inflammation of the lower urinary tract from bacteria transferred during sexual intercourse — usually easily treatable with an antibiotic), would probably not warrant litigation. Many attorneys and their clients would probably decide not to pursue even other types of more onerous infections (e.g. gonorrhea, syphilis) because the “legal damages” are not economically viable. Fortunately, medical care now prevents most serious and permanent injury from a variety of STDs which in the recent past impaired peoples’ lives forever. Yet until there is a cure for all STDs, until sufferers no longer bear the burden of life-long problems, the law should and now does provide an opportunity to obtain compensation for these injuries. Legal damages may include the cost of life-long medical care and treatment, prescription and over-the-counter medical, related expenses such as high-risk pregnancy care, therapy and counseling, pain and suffering and perhaps even punitive damages.
4. Evidence and the STD Case
Except for the emotional concerns, the evidentiary concerns of an STD case present probably the greatest challenge to the attorney. These issues are woven closely with the personal concerns of each client. Basically, the attorney will need to prove that the “infector” knew or should have known that he (or she, although the majority of herpes cases are transferred from men to women) was infected with the herpes virus. This can be established by medical records, the defendant’s own statements, or even previous partners. The attorney will need to prove that his client was unaware of the partner’s STD. Finally, a successful litigant will need to prove that she was infected by the defendant, and no one else. These sensitive issues should be carefully reviewed by counsel prior to the initiation of formal action. As in any personal matter that finds its way into the court system, a variety of issues arise which can help or hurt. We at Pingelton Law Firm like to believe that with full disclosure between client and attorney, those people truly deserving help will get it in a fair and just court.
5. Settlements or Court Trial?
There are two ways to obtain compensation for an STD injury. The guilty party can pay voluntarily, or the court system can make him pay. Even before the Court of Appeals rendered this important Missouri case, people settled difficult and inherently private problems without filing formal lawsuits. We believe that truly deserving victims have a good chance of obtaining significant recovery without formal papers ever being filed in court. There is one key to this: The case has to be serious enough that if an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached after diligent effort, both parties know that court papers will be filed within a business day after the final “no” is uttered by the defendant. That fact, along with the understanding that the victim has a good case that will be won, will cause a large number of defendants to agree to fair and reasonable payment without being forced by a formal court action. Statistically, the vast majority of personal injury cases settle without the need for a trial. In those cases which must be tried, we welcome the opportunity to do what we were trained to do years ago and what we’ve successfully done throughout Missouri — try lawsuits. Importantly, our family law background gives us valuable experience in handling the “non-legal” issues of this type of trial. Our clients will NOT be put on trial as if they were the defendant. They will NOT be made to feel guilty or shamed because they suffered this type of injury. Our clients WILL feel a sense of fairness and justice that they have persevered with our help, skill and encouragement.