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Sex Torts: Calif. Attorney Lands $6.7M Verdict for Herpes Infection

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

Comfortable with sex? And the sex lives of your clients? Then litigating sex torts may be for you.

Shaun Murphy, an attorney with the small firm of Slovak Baron & Empey in Palm Springs, California just won a $6.7-million jury verdict. His client had accused her ex-boyfriend of intentionally and negligently infecting her with herpes.

This was Murphy's second sex tort case--an area of law that has proven to be financially rewarding. His first sex tort client was awarded $2.49 million after being infected by her husband.

Courts are surprisingly open to hearing cases that involve the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. And juries are not so surprisingly hard on those that do the transmitting.

In Murphy's case, his client's boyfriend had been living with herpes for 25 years when the pair entered into a sexual relationship. It took him months to disclose the fact, and by then it was too late--he hadn't been wearing condoms. The jury trial was characterized as a scandalous he-said-she-said affair, but in the end the jury believed the victim.

Intentional infection cases are much easier to prove, but some courts have made it easier to demonstrate that transmission was the result of negligence. Both California and Iowa permit plaintiffs to show that a defendant had constructive knowledge of an infection, reports California Lawyer. Though this is still an amorphous concept, it substantially lowers the burden to recovery.

So if you're able to handle sensitive subjects and don't mind discussing STDs, sex torts may be your next big business opportunity. After all, it's a growing area of law, and with the advent of social media, you can expect it to get bigger.

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