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Can You Sue Someone for Giving You an STD?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Updated by Vaidehi Mehta, Esq. | Last updated on

Unfortunately, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise in many parts of the world, including the United States. Also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or venereal disease (VD), they have been steadily increasing in the U.S. since at least 2014, with no signs of slowing down. In 2021 alone, over 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported to the CDC.

Some STDs are experiencing particularly alarming rises. For example, gonorrhea cases have increased by nearly 28% since 2017, and syphilis cases have more than doubled in the same timeframe. Certain groups are disproportionately affected by STDs. Young people under 25, racial and ethnic minorities, and gay or bisexual men have significantly higher rates of STDs than the general population. Genital herpes, while not necessarily rising, is still quite common, affecting a significant portion of the country's population. Around 11.9% of individuals between 14 and 49 years old have HSV-2 infection, the virus responsible for genital herpes — that's about 47.9 million people in that age group.

With the growing trend, people might be wondering if there is anything to be done about getting hit unexpectedly with one of these infections. If you think you were misled, lied to, or otherwise ended up with more than you bargained for, is there any legal action you can take?

Taking Your Situation to Court

Whether you can sue someone for contracting an STI depends on several factors, including the specific circumstances of your situation, the type of STI involved, and the laws in your state.

In most cases, you can sue someone for transmitting an STI under either a negligence theory or an intentional tort theory. If they knew they had the STI and didn't disclose it to you, this is considered negligence. In this case, you can file a civil lawsuit for damages, which may include medical expenses, emotional distress, and lost wages. If they intentionally exposed you to the STI, such as through deception or force, this could be considered battery or sexual assault. In this case, you may be able to pursue criminal charges in addition to a civil lawsuit.

The tort for STD transmission is called wrongful infection of a sexually transmitted disease. This may be a lawsuit that you would want to consider if you are an unmarried individual who has unknowingly contracted an STD from a known sexual partner.

What do you need to know if you want to proceed with an STD Case?

The Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is how much time you have as a plaintiff to file a lawsuit. This will vary both based on the state you're bringing your lawsuit in and based on the legal theory you're using (such as negligence or intentional tort).

The statute of limitations for negligence claims is typically 2-3 years from the date you discovered or should have reasonably discovered that you were infected. Some states have longer or shorter statutes of limitations for negligence claims. The statute of limitations for battery claims is typically 2-4 years from the date of the incident.

Furthermore, a fraud claim may be available if the person lied to you about their STI status. The statute of limitations for fraud claims can vary depending on the state, but it is typically 2-6 years from the date you discovered the fraud.

The tricky part of navigating the statute of limitations is often figuring out when it starts. In general, it starts when the plaintiff discovers the injury. In this case, it is when the plaintiff discovers that he or she has an STD. It could be when the plaintiff started suffering from STD symptoms or even when the plaintiff has been officially diagnosed with the disease by a doctor.

Type of STI

The type of STI plays a significant role in determining whether you can sue for its transmission.

STIs with more serious, long-term health consequences are generally more likely to be actionable in court. STIs that are considered “more serious" are often ones that lead to things like chronic health conditions, infertility, certain cancers, or even significant emotional distress. Examples of such STIs include HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, herpes (especially if it results in severe symptoms or complications), and syphilis.

Some states have specific laws that identify particular STIs as actionable for lawsuits. These often include HIV, hepatitis, and sometimes herpes. Other STIs, while still potentially actionable, may not have explicit legal recognition in all states, making lawsuits for their transmission more challenging.

The Evidence

In an STI lawsuit, evidence plays a crucial role in building a strong case and proving your claims. Here are some key considerations about the evidence you need to keep in mind.

  • Medical Records. These serve as primary documentation of your diagnosis, treatment, and medical history related to the STI. Ensure you have complete records, including lab test results, doctor's notes, and any prescriptions or treatment plans.
  • Witness Testimony. In some cases, witness testimony can corroborate your claims about the circumstances of the STI transmission. This could include individuals who were present during conversations about the STI or witnessed risky sexual behavior. It could also just be someone who can confirm your relationship with the defendant, including the timeline of intimacy. It helps to have a witness with independent knowledge of the defendant's prior STI diagnosis or risky sexual habits.
  • Communication Records. Text messages, emails, or other forms of communication with the defendant might provide evidence of their knowledge of their own STI or attempts to conceal the STI from you. It could also be evidence of sexual activity between them and yourself.
  • Timing and Sequencing. Establishing a clear timeline of events is crucial. This may include the date of your STI diagnosis, the last date you had sexual contact with the defendant, and any relevant conversations or interactions about STIs before or after the contact.


Seeking damages for wrongful transmission of an STD is justifiable, but it is tricky. Courts can only allow a certain amount of monetary damages. Unless a plaintiff can illustrate that there are problems that will burden him or her for the rest of his or her life, it will be difficult to recover excess damages.

Some possible damages could include lifelong medical care and treatment as well as related treatment such as counseling. In some rare cases, even punitive damages can be given. However, please keep in mind that this is only in severe cases.

If you are seeking compensation for physical, emotional, or financial damages due to the STI, gather relevant documentation to support your claims. This could include:

  • Medical bills and invoices for treatment
  • Proof of lost wages or reduced earning capacity
  • Evidence of emotional distress, such as therapy records or counseling notes

Overall, STI cases are not easy to win. The plaintiff has to prove that he or she was unaware that the defendant had the STI. The plaintiff must also prove that the infection was indeed caused by the defendant and no one else. If you feel that you have been the victim of wrongful infection of an STI, you do have legal recourse. Please visit our Related Resources for more information, and consult with a personal injury attorney in your area. You will likely be able to get a free consultation and advice on the viability of your legal case.

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