A Cleveland woman is suing her longtime, and now former, boyfriend in Summit County Common Pleas Court, claiming he failed to tell her he had genital herpes.

She said she has tested positive for the incurable, sexually transmitted disease and wants to hold her ex responsible for not informing her ­— and to pressure him into sharing his diagnosis with future partners.

“It’s permanent,” the 46-year-old woman said in a recent phone interview. “This is not chlamydia where I can take something and it will go away. He knew he had it — and never told me. It’s been devastating.”

The woman, whose name isn’t being used because of the personal nature of the case, took the unusual step of filing a civil lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend. She also is representing herself.

Reached by phone last week, her 51-year-old former boyfriend said, “I am not going to talk about this,” and claimed his ex-girlfriend is a “pathological liar.” He hung up on a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com reporter after saying he would provide police reports backing up his claims. He didn’t follow through with this promise.

Officials with the Summit County Clerk of Court’s Office say such a case is rare, though people have been charged criminally for having sex with someone and not telling their partner they had HIV or AIDS.

In other states, lawsuits over failing to disclose a herpes diagnosis have netted large rewards. In California, for example, a jury awarded the ex-girlfriend of a millionaire who was infected with herpes $6.75 million for physical and mental suffering and medical expenses, according to an ABC News article. Other suits have drawn smaller amounts, such as an Oregon woman whom a jury awarded $900,000, according to an Oregonlive.com article.

Usher lawsuits

Several celebrities have been accused of infecting women with herpes, including, most recently, superstar singer Usher, who settled a $1.1 million lawsuit with one woman and is now facing suits involving two women and a man who say they had consensual sex with the singer, but weren’t told of his alleged diagnosis, according to a recent Newsweek article.

The standard for the courts seems to be: Is the person aware of the diagnosis, and is this information shared with sexual partners? If the answer to the first is yes and to the second is no, the decisions seem to favor the party kept in the dark.

The Cleveland woman said she had no clue about the diagnosis of her ex-boyfriend, whom she dated for 7½ years. She said their relationship was initially off-and-on because she was going through a divorce, but later got more serious, with her moving into his Richfield home about four years ago. They planned to get married in August.

She said the relationship went south, however, in May when she found a list of his medications and one caught her eye: Valtrex. She did an internet search and discovered the medicine is an antiviral drug taken to treat herpes infections. She called a pharmacist and asked if this medication had any other uses and was told that it did not.

2010 diagnosis

The woman said she went through her boyfriend’s medical records and found a document that indicated he had been diagnosed with herpes in February 2010, a month before they started dating. She confronted him, she said, and he said he hadn’t told her because he was embarrassed.

“I was just like ­— what I explained to him — ‘You took my choice away from me,’ ” said the woman, who is a flight attendant. “I was just so dumbfounded.”

Their relationship was strained after that, hitting a low point on May 22 when the man was charged with domestic violence after an argument between the two that she said centered on his herpes diagnosis.

The woman, though, wasn’t ready to give up on the relationship. She said she agreed in July to the charge against him in Akron Municipal Court being reduced to disorderly conduct. He received a 30-day suspended jail sentence and was put on probation for a year, according to court records.

After the case was settled, she said, their relationship got even worse. She moved out in September.

She said she has tested positive for herpes, though she said she hasn’t had an outbreak. She began doing research on the disease and was alarmed to learn having herpes could make her more likely to develop cervical cancer.

Incensed by her diagnosis, the woman looked into possibly pressing criminal charges against her ex-boyfriend. She was told her chances of winning such a prosecution were slim.

Most of Ohio’s laws center on the transmission of HIV or AIDs. People can be charged with assault, however, for giving a partner another sexually transmitted disease, such as herpes.

The woman said she was advised to file a civil lawsuit against her ex, and started calling attorneys trying to find someone to represent her. She said she struck out, though, because they were concerned that the case might not be successful, meaning they might not get paid.

She decided to file the lawsuit pro se, meaning she will act as her own attorney. Her ex-boyfriend, so far, also hasn’t hired a lawyer.

The case has been assigned to Judge Joy Oldfield. Without attorneys involved, it will proceed like other civil cases, with the parties required to exchange information or ­— in legal terms — discovery. Civil cases in Ohio are supposed to be handled within a year, but the time they take to resolve can vary.

Accept responsibility

The woman said she wants her ex to accept responsibility for what he did to her, and also to try to stop him from doing the same thing to anyone else.

“It ain’t even really about the money,” said the woman, who did note, however, that she has had medical expenses and could incur more down the road. “You can’t do that and think that it’s okay.”

Her lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, medical damages and special and future damages that “are fair and just.”

The woman said herpes may not fatal, but it doesn’t go away.

“It’s still a life-long virus I have to deal with every day for the rest of my life,” she said.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.