The Syphilis Outbreak in Porn & Its Legal Ramifications

On August 16, 2012 XBiz reported that, according to talent agents Shy Love of ATMLA and Derek Hay of LA Direct Models, a male performer knowingly altered his paper test and worked in the industry while contagious with syphilis. According to the story on XBiz “the performer admitted to Hay he was feeling ill in mid-July and underwent tests with his personal physician, at which time the syphilis was originally diagnosed. He was also given medication at the time, Hay said. Then he tested on July 21, approximately a week later, at Talent Testing Services, which also identified the performer as positive for syphilis…” The story went on to state “the discrepancy on the performer’s test was discovered on Aug. 7, when the producer who received the scene paperwork from the director  “was doing his normal due diligence and noticed an irregularity in this performer’s test paper in comparison to what he was used to receiving from TTS…Hay said the portion of the test that notes “reactive or not reactive” for syphilis had been obscured.”

Obviously, this revelation caused numerous people in the industry to be upset and stressed. It appears from the reported story that this particular male talent knowingly altered his test and worked in the industry with full knowledge that he was contagious. I was asked several times on Twitter whether the actions by this particular male talent were criminal in nature.

The answer is yes. In California, if someone knowingly exposes another to a sexually transmitted disease they have in fact committed a crime. For knowingly exposing a scene partner, that contagious performer would be guilty of a misdemeanor which is punishable by imprisonment up to 6 months and a $1000.00 fine. I also believe that true is for each exposure. Therefore, as stated in the article by Shy Love, this performer worked on three different occasions with an altered test and thus that performer may be charged with three separate counts and possibly face more than a year in jail.

The relevant code sections are listed below;

California Health & Safety Code

120290. Except as provided in Section 120291 or in the case of the removal of an afflicted person in a manner the least dangerous to the public health, any person afflicted with any contagious, infectious,or communicable disease who willfully exposes himself or herself to another person, and any person who willfully exposes another person afflicted with the disease to someone else, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

120600. Any person who refuses to give any information to make any report, to comply with any proper control measure or examination, or to perform any other duty or act required by this chapter, or who violates any provision of this chapter or any rule or regulation of the state board issued pursuant to this chapter, or who exposes any person to or infects any person with any venereal disease; or any person infected with a venereal disease in an infectious state who knows of the condition and who marries or has sexual intercourse, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Obviously anyone exposed by this male talent could press criminal charges against him.

However, there are other rights and remedies that an exposed and infected performer has. The main one being a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. If a performer is exposed on set to a virus or contagion that will require extended medical treatment and a loss of income for a prolonged period of time it is unavoidable that the performer will suffer because of it. Workers’ compensation insurance can provide benefits to that performer in the form of medical treatment and temporary disability payments for the loss of income until the performer can return to their usual and customary job activities, performing. While no one will “get rich” from a workers’ compensation claim it is a system of benefits to help an infected performer in case of an injury. Syphilis would in fact be considered a work related injury and covered by the appropriate Labor Code sections. Further, a workers’ compensation claim is not like a lawsuit where a performer would have to prove their claim like in civil court. In case of something like a syphilis infection all that would be necessary is for the infected performer to prove they worked with the original carrier of the infection and it will be presumed to be a work related injury. The burden would then shift to the production company to prove that the performer actually became infected somewhere else. It is almost impossible for a production company to meet that burden. Also in the workers’ compensation system “a tie” is usually decided in favor of the infected performer.

While this situation is extremely problematic for the industry and for the performers exposed there are remedies for them. However, this is a situation that needs to be learned from and never repeated. The health and safety of performers should be the first and foremost concern of other performers and the production companies.

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One thought on “The Syphilis Outbreak in Porn & Its Legal Ramifications

  1. That’s why I think all performers should have to take the full range of tests for ALL diseases. If this scumbag went through the steps to keep working with a fabricated test he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and pay restitution to anyone he exposed.

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