Jurors also found that the retired dentist committed battery by intentionally engaging in an activity that harmed the woman.
Several jurors said they found the man's behavior reprehensible and that the dental hygienist's suffering was real.
"We all felt he should have told her -- he had the responsibility to tell her," said juror Noah Brimhall.
In 1996, however, a 32-year-old woman filed suit against her 38-year-old former Portland boyfriend, claiming he infected her with genital herpes after making a conscious decision not to tell her of his health status. Others criminalize only the intentional spreading of HIV because of its serious, life-threatening nature.
Oregon does neither, but prosecutors can charge defendants under existing statutes, such as the state's assault law.
In the case of the retired dentist, the Washington County district attorney's office declined to prosecute, figuring it would not be able to prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt" -- a higher standard than in a civil suit.
The 49-year-old Beaverton divorcee was impressed when she met a 69-year-old Southeast Portland man on the Internet dating website e Harmony. They had a lot in common, including that she was a dental hygienist and he was a retired dentist. After enduring repeated painful outbreaks of the disease and spiraling into clinical depression, she filed a lawsuit.
On the fourth date -- an evening that included hors d'oeuvres, wine and a few puffs of pot -- the two had sex. Last week after a four-day trial, a Multnomah County jury awarded her nearly every dollar she was asking for: $900,000 for her pain and suffering.
It was the first time a case of one person suing another for intentionally transmitting herpes went to trial in Oregon, said the attorneys who tried and researched the case.Jurors were asked to ponder fundamental questions about dating and sex in today's times: Was the man obligated to tell his date that he had genital herpes before they had unprotected sex?Did he truly not know that he was contagious even when he wasn't experiencing lesions?And how much should a person be compensated for a disease, albeit incurable, that affects roughly 1 in 6 adults?The jury deliberated for two hours before reaching a verdict: The man was 75 percent negligent, while the woman carried 25 percent of the blame.Two jurors, however, dissented, believing the man was entirely at fault.