Illinois Appellate Court Reverses $2M Award to HIV-Positive Woman Who Sued Fiance’s Parents for Allegedly Lying About Son’s HIV Status
An Illinois appellate court on Friday reversed a $2 million award to an HIV-positive woman who sued the parents of her now-deceased fiance for allegedly lying about their son's HIV status, the Chicago Sun-Times reports (Patterson, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/4). A Cook County, Ill., jury in March 2004 awarded $2 million to the HIV-positive woman, known in court documents as "Jane Doe." Doe in August 1996 became HIV-positive through unprotected sex with her fiance, Albert Dilling, according to her attorney, Hall Adams. In the suit, Doe alleged that Dilling's parents -- Elizabeth Dilling and her late husband, Kirkpatrick Dilling -- knew that their son was HIV-positive and lied to Doe about his status and the cause of his deteriorating health. Albert Dilling died of AIDS-related illnesses in November 1999. Doe said that her fiance did not tell her that he was HIV-positive and that his parents' dishonesty about his status prevented her from learning her own HIV-positive status and seeking antiretroviral treatment for three years. According to Adams, Doe asked Dilling's parents why he was "constantly ill," and they responded that he had heavy metal poisoning and later said that he had Lyme disease. The parents, who paid Dilling's medical bills and were in contact with his doctors, said that they did not learn about their son's HIV status until two weeks before his death. "We did not know he had AIDS," Elizabeth Dilling said, adding, "Our doctors diagnosed him with heavy metal poisoning and then in July 1999 he was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I never understood why they didn't test him for AIDS" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/5/04). The appellate court ruled that there was no evidence indicating that the Dillings had knowledge of their son's HIV status and that Doe should not have relied on Dilling's parents for the medical status of their son, Elizabeth Dilling's attorney, David Novoselsky, said (AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 9/2). Ann Fisher, executive director of AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, said she agrees with the appellate decision, adding, "Any adult in this day and age old enough to be having unprotected sex who somehow thinks they can rely upon somebody else to tell them whether they should protect themselves from HIV is a crazy notion." Adams said they will ask the state Supreme Court to review the appellate decision (Chicago Sun-Times, 9/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.