Brief Fact Summary.
After learning of Dr. Owens’ AIDs diagnosis following initial treatment by Dr. Owens, Dr. Owens’ patients sued his estate on charges of battery due to the fear of contracting the disease.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A plaintiff cannot recover on charges of battery due to the fear of acquiring a disease if the plaintiff was not exposed to the disease-causing medium.
The late Dr. Raymond Owens (Dr. Owens), worked as a dentist while he was conflicted of AIDs. Patients complained about learning of Dr. Owens’ affliction after initially receiving medical treatment, and that learning of Dr. Owens’ ailment following treatment made them fearful for the status of their health. None of Dr. Owens’ patients were tested positive for HIV following treatment by Dr. Owens. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Dr. Owens and the plaintiffs appealed.
Whether a plaintiff can recover on charges of battery due to the fear of acquiring a disease?
Battery is defined as any intentional and unpermitted contact with another person that is harmful or offensive. Harmful or offensive contact has to meet an objective “reasonableness” standard, precluding a sensitive person from recovering under battery. Because HIV, causing AIDs, is contracted only through exchanging bodily fluids or through contact with blood, a fear of contracting HIV is only reasonable when the plaintiff is actually exposed to HIV. None of Dr. Owens’ patients were exposed to any of Dr. Owens’ blood or bodily fluids, and the plaintiffs therefore cannot recovery under the charge of battery.