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Brazil: Superior Tribunal of Justice Decides Man Must Indemnify Woman Partner for Infecting Her with HIV

(Apr. 9, 2019) On March 19, 2019, the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (Superior Tribunal de Justiça, STJ) decided that a person who transmits the HIV virus in the context of a stable long-term relationship may be held civilly liable when the agent’s behavior, whether by action or omission, presupposes intention (dolo ou culpa), damage, and a causal link (nexo de causalidade). (Quarta Turma Condena Homem a Indenizar Ex-Companheira por Transmissão do Vírus HIV, STJ NOTÍCIAS (Mar. 19, 2019).)

The case was initiated when a woman filed a lawsuit in trial court against her former partner, with whom she had been in a stable relationship for 15 years and had three children, for having infected her with HIV during that time. She requested a monthly pension and an indemnification for moral damages. (Id.)

Both the trial court and the appellate court decisions recognized the civil liability of the former partner, because it had been proven in one court during trial that he was aware of his condition and in the other court that he had engaged in risky behavior. Both courts had ordered him to pay indemnification but denied the woman’s request for a monthly pension. (Id.)

In the appeal to the STJ, the defendant claimed that the judgment was vague (omisso) and maintained that the elements of civil liability were not fulfilled. The woman requested an increase in the value of the indemnification as well as the award of a monthly pension. (Id.)

The STJ found the matter was one of first impression in that court. It determined that the lower courts’ findings that the man acted with negligence and recklessness, and of causation of the partner’s injury, were well-established.  The court confirmed the indemnification for moral damages but denied the woman’s request monthly pension on procedural grounds. (Id.)

STJ’s Responsibilities

Created by the Constitution of 1988 (CONSTITUIÇÃO FEDERAL [C.F.] art. 92(II), Presidency of the Republic website), the STJ is responsible for standardizing the interpretation of federal law in Brazil and definitively resolving civil and criminal cases that do not involve a constitutional matter or a specialized court (Atribuições, STJ (last visited Apr. 3, 2019).)