Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Metro likely to pay $485,000 to settle suit with rape victim

By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • May 13, 2008 Metro Nashville is expected to pay $485,000 to settle a lawsuit because its hospital didn't tell a rape victim about drugs that might have prevented her from contracting HIV, and its police department didn't immediately test the rapist for the virus. City attorneys have advised the Metro Council to approve the settlement next week. The assault victim would be paid $250,000; her husband would receive $235,000. The woman, who is now HIV-positive, was raped in 2004. Metro Law Director Sue Cain said police did not have a procedure in place to test the suspect for human immunodeficiency virus, which leads to AIDS, despite a state law requiring immediate testing of rape suspects. The suspect was not tested for several weeks. At the same time, a nurse at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry failed to tell the victim that antiretroviral drugs could have prevented her from contracting HIV. "We think the likelihood is that the courts would find that the protocol being used (at the hospital) did not meet the standard of care and that a policy to have criminal defendants tested should have been in place," Metro Law Director Sue Cain told The Tennessean on Monday. The newspaper does not identify victims of rape or sexual assault. Cain said the 1994 law requiring immediate testing of rape suspects does not say who's responsible for the tests, but it can be inferred that police are. Metro police now take suspects to Nashville General for testing, though it's rare to catch them so soon after the crime. The hospital, which since the early 1990s has offered antiretroviral drugs to employees who work with HIV patients, now requires anyone examining a sexual assault victim to explain what the drugs can do, Cain said. Liability laws would have limited the woman and her husband, who sued the city in Davidson County Circuit Court, to awards of $250,000 each. The husband claimed he had lost the chance to have sexual relations with his wife and has had to take on much more responsibility at home..

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