Illinois jury awards $2 million in HIV disclosure case
A Cook County, Ill., jury this week awarded $2 million to a woman who claimed her deceased fiance's parents lied to her about their son's HIV status. The woman sued the parents of Albert Dilling, her former fiance, claiming Dilling infected her with HIV through unprotected sex because he and his parents did not inform her of his condition. The woman was identified in court papers only as "Jane Doe." She claims she became infected through unprotected sex with Albert Dilling in 1996 and did not know he had AIDS until a month before he died in 1999. She said he and his parents lied to her about his condition.
"Our claim wasn't that Albert's parents had any duty to volunteer information about their son's medical care," the woman's attorney, Hall Adams III, said Wednesday. "But when they took it upon themselves to offer information about their son's condition, they had an obligation to give accurate information." The plaintiff said she could have received antiretroviral medicine to help prevent the HIV infection from developing into AIDS if she had known about her fiance's condition.
Attorneys for Elizabeth Dilling, Albert's mother, argued she would have broken the state's AIDS confidentiality law had she revealed her son's condition. Dilling's attorneys also said she learned about her son's HIV infection at the same time her son's ex-fiancee did. Albert Dilling's father, Kirkpatrick, died in 2003.
AIDS activists say they hope an appeals court overturns the jury award. "It would have been a violation of Illinois law for these parents to tell this woman their son's HIV status," Ann Hilton Fisher, executive director of the AIDS Legal Counsel of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. Legal advisers say the parents of HIV-infected children shouldn't lie about their children's HIV status but instead should refuse to answer and instruct anyone asking such questions to directly question the person they're inquiring about.