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A Chicago HIV-positive woman has won a $2 million jury award against her late fianc�’s parents on the ground they lied to her about the medical condition of their son, who had AIDS. While there have been scores of civil cases brought nationwide by people who claimed they were infected by lovers who did not disclose that they had the AIDS virus, the Chicago case may the first of its kind that involves suing a third party. The case pits the elements of fraud against one of the toughest AIDS confidentiality statutes in the nation. The outcome is to be appealed. Doe v. Dilling, No. 00 L 5079 (Cook Co., Ill., Cir. Ct.). The Illinois AIDS Confidentiality Act prohibits any person from disclosing the results of an HIV test to a third party. A violator is subject to both criminal and civil penalties. The plaintiff’s attorney, Hall Adams III, a Chicago solo practitioner, said the confidentiality act is inapplicable to his client’s case. So far, three Cook County Circuit Court judges have sided with him. “The purpose of the act is to prevent the spread of AIDS by encouraging testing,” Adams said. “The act does not serve as a license to lie.” Jane Doe’s plight The plaintiff, then 44, identified in the suit as Jane Doe, began dating Albert Dilling in 1996, when he was 41. He was already infected with HIV, but she didn’t know it. About a year later, soon after their engagement, she met Dilling’s parents: Kirk, an attorney who is now deceased, and Betty Dilling. At about this time, Albert’s health deteriorated. The complaint alleges that Kirk Dilling held himself out as an authority on health and medicine. His legal specialty was representing vitamin and other supplement companies before regulatory agencies. When the woman expressed reservations about marrying a sick person, he assured her that his son had heavy metal poisoning, the woman alleged. Dilling said that his son was being treated with alternative therapies and that he would fully recover. Over the next two years, it was alleged, Albert’s parents repeatedly denied that he had HIV. Their reassurances, she said, caused her to continue to have unprotected sex with him, to remain engaged to him, to spend money and time for his care and not to be tested for HIV. If she had been tested, she alleged, she would have immediately begun antiviral treatment. She did not discover he had AIDS until 3 1/2 weeks before he died in 1999. That’s when she took him to a doctor, who disclosed his HIV status to her, mistakenly believing that she was his wife, Hall said. The parents, Hall said, had known Albert was infected since 1992, when they sent him to Switzerland for treatment. The complaint stated causes of action for negligent and intentional misrepresentation. The Dillings’ counsel, Chicago solo practitioner Peter Bustamante, said he will appeal. The woman and her fianc� had unprotected sex for almost a year before she met his parents, he said. “They had no legal duty to tell her the truth,” assuming that they knew the truth, which he disputes, he said. Misrepresentation, Bustamante said, is actionable only in commercial contexts. “It is not meant for a familial situation.” That is not true, said Mark Wojcik, a torts professor at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School. “As I understand the facts, they meet all the elements of fraud,” Wojcik said. He asserted that the parents had no duty to respond to her queries and should have told her to ask her fianc�. Ann Hilton Fisher, director of AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, was not surprised that the jury sided with the woman, but said that the case should not have gone to a jury. “Unlike some other jurisdictions, the Illinois confidentiality act applies to any person-’no person may disclose,’ ” she said. “ It differs from our substance abuse and mental health confidentiality statutes, which only apply to providers.” The AIDS legal organization will likely be an amicus on appeal. Post’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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