Las Vegas man looked for love and found it briefly, meeting a minor Hollywood producer online. But a series of trysts packed an ugly twist — an incurable sexually transmitted disease.
Now he’s suing.
The man, identified in Clark County District Court papers only as John Doe, said he met the producer through the controversial dating app Tinder and their hookup left him with genital herpes. The lawsuit names the defendant, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal is not using her name because her accuser is able to remain anonymous in court papers.
Doe’s claims against the woman include fraudulent misrepresentation, battery, constructive fraud, willful misconduct, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He claims he incurred substantial medical care expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity and loss of life enjoyment. He seeks $10,000 as well as attorneys fees, unspecified punitive damages and other relief.
Jason Maier of Maier Gutierrez Ayon, who is listed the plaintiff’s lead attorney, didn’t return a phone message seeking comment on this case. Multiple calls and emails to the producer and to her Hollywood office were not returned.
Court papers recount the following:
Doe and the producer met virtually Feb. 4 on Tinder, a smart-phone application often used to arrange commitment-free sexual encounters. They began exchanging messages and she described many sexual encounters with men, including those she’d met online.
Doe told the producer that he is a germophobe and that she responded that she’d been careful with prior sexual partners and had used protection. During their unspecified “brief relationship” she built trust by sharing stories of her “troubling, scandalous, and often private matters.”
On Feb. 12, Doe went to the producer’s home in Beverly Hills, Calif. When she began to undress, Doe asked her for a condom and she replied that she had none and could no longer get pregnant. Doe told her STDs, not pregnancy was the issue. The woman laughed, said she was a “good Jewish mother,” a devout synagogue member and disease-free. As further reassurance she told Doe her name was on a building at a prominent L.A. hospital.
The two then had sex.
On Feb. 18, the two met at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, where Doe avoided touching the bed’s comforter for fear of bedbugs and reiterated his fear of germs and STDs. The producer again assured him she was clean and the two had unprotected sex.
On Feb. 20, the producer called Doe to say she’d awakened with a herpes breakout and genital blistering. She told him she’d lied about having genital herpes, which she had contracted from her ex-husband more than 20 years earlier. In later text messages the producer said she “had no words” in her defense but had thought herpes could be transmitted only during an outbreak.
According to the Mayo Clinic, either of two viruses can trigger genital herpes: herpes simplex virus 1, aka HSV-1, which commonly causes cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth but can be spread to genitals during oral sex; or HSV-2, which commonly causes genital herpes and spreads through sexual and skin-to-skin contact.
HSV-2 is highly common and highly contagious, Mayo said, but dies quickly outside the body and is nearly impossible to contract from towels, toilets or other objects. Genital herpes is incurable, although antiviral drugs can help sores heal faster during initial outbreaks, ease symptoms during subsequent outbreaks and cut the chance of transmission to sexual partners.
In an October report, the World Health Organization said 3.7 billion people younger than 50 — 67 percent of the world population — are infected with HSV-1. The group added that 417 million more people ages 15 to 49 have HSV-2.
“Taken together,” WHO said, “the estimates reveal that over half a billion people between the ages of 15-49 years have genital infection caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that most people with either herpes virus are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for other skin conditions.
Tinder and similar sites have come under fire in recent months from public health officials in several states who have linked a notable rise in sexually transmitted diseases and “high-risk behaviors” that include using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters.
Tinder did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Tinder was cited in an August Vanity Fair magazine story for spreading hookup culture and helping to usher in “a dating apocalypse.” Tinder, which serves mostly heterosexuals and Grindr, an app serving mostly homosexuals, have also been accused of speeding STDs’ spread.
The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation in September posted a billboard implying a link between the apps and STDs; one pair of silhouetted heads were labeled “Tinder” and “chlamydia”; a separate pair was labeled “Grindr” and “gonorrhea.” Tinder sent the foundation a cease-and-desist letter in an unsuccessful attempt to quash the campaign.
Charles Prince, president of Vegas Matchmakers, a dating agency, says the lawsuit illustrates the perils of dating apps and quick hookups. Most online app profiles contain lies, he said; people can portray themselves however they’d like.
“If you go on the Internet and look for intimacy, this is the risk you’re running,” he said. “You’re not building a real relationship with someone who’s going to be honest with you. Each person is looking just to satisfy individual needs and desires.
“On her end of the scale, she should have been honest, but his decision to pursue instant gratification is going to affect him the rest of his life,” he said. “They both went on the site, they both knew what they were getting into: they were looking for a quick night of fun, a good time. Now he’s paying the price and he doesn’t like it.”
For people with herpes, there are some dating apps for them.