HIV-Positive Woman Sues Drug Company for Failing to Warn Husband About Risk of Contracting HIV-2 in Company's Lab
June 8, 2005
The Maryland Court of Appeals on Monday heard arguments in a case in which an HIV-positive Maryland woman sued the pharmaceutical company Pharmacia & Upjohn for not providing sufficient warning her husband -- a former lab technician at Pharmacia, which is now part of Pfizer -- that he might contract a rare strain of HIV during his work, the Baltimore Sun reports. The woman's husband, who handled samples of HIV-1 and the rarer HIV-2, in 1989 received a false positive result after being tested for HIV-1. Stephen Mercer -- the attorney representing the man's wife, known only as "Jane Doe" in court documents -- said Pharmacia knew the man's test results could indicate that he was infected with HIV-2. Mercer argued that the drug company should have informed the man of this possibility so he could have made efforts to prevent transmission to his wife. "They have reason to know he may be infected, and they don't have a duty to tell the worker so he can protect his wife? That defies common sense," Mercer told the court. Doe believes she was infected with HIV by her husband, who is dying of AIDS-related causes, according to Mercer. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February asked the Maryland Court of Appeals to rule on how far an employer's duty extends under state law. Pharmacia says it should not have obligations to people who are not its employees or who might be the sexual partners of its employees. Stephen Marshall, an attorney for Pharmacia, said that employees are tested for diseases but that Pharmacia should not be responsible for "every potential ramification" of those tests, according to the Sun. The state Court of Appeals judges said that "changing social and sexual mores make drawing a line for who might have a claim problematic," according to the Sun. However, Mercer said that a spouse is easily identifiable and that warning employees about potential risks for health conditions is not "burdensome," according to the Sun (Siegel, Baltimore Sun, 6/7).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.