John B. v. Superior Court (2006) 38 Cal. 4th 1177

In this case, the plaintiff was married to John B. He had HIV and at the time of this lawsuit had AIDS. He did not tell his wife he was HIV positive. She contracted HIV. He then blamed her. The Supreme Court held the wife could pursue her claim for negligent infliction of HIV, a claim that Ms. Gallagher had helped to develop.


A wife sued her husband for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and negligence. The wife, who was infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the probable causative agent of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), alleged that the husband became infected with HIV first, as a result of engaging in unprotected sex with other men before and during their marriage, and that he then knowingly or negligently transmitted the virus to her. The husband, who had full-blown AIDS, alleged that the wife had infected him and offered as proof a negative HIV test conducted in connection with his application for life insurance on August 17, 2000, six weeks before the wife discovered she was infected with HIV. The parties had married in July 2000 and ceased having sexual relations after their honeymoon. The trial court authorized broad discovery into the husband’s medical records as well as his sexual history. (Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC271134, Lawrence W. Crispo, Judge). The Court of Appeal, Second Dist., Div. Eight, No. B169563, granted the husband’s petition for writ of mandate to the extent the discovery sought the identities of the husband’s previous sexual partners and admissions concerning his lifestyle, but otherwise denied relief.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal insofar as it affirmed the order compelling information about the husband’s sexual history outside the six-month period prior to the test and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court concluded that the discovery had to be limited in light of the husband’s negative HIV test on August 17, 2000, which restricted the window period of possible infection to the six months preceding the negative HIV test. The wife had failed to identify the practical necessity for discovery of the husband’s sexual conduct any earlier than the six months that preceded his negative HIV test. However, the wife could overcome this temporal limitation on discovery by offering some basis to question the accuracy or reliability of the husband’s negative HIV test. The court also concluded that the tort of negligent transmission of HIV does not depend solely on actual knowledge of HIV infection and extends at least to those situations where the actor, under the totality of the circumstances, has reason to know of the infection.

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