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Lawsuit Over HIV Test Results Gets OK

February 10, 2005

DENVER (AP) _ A Wyoming couple can sue an insurance company for not informing them that a blood test taken for their application for coverage came back HIV-positive, a federal appeals court ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. Inc. had a duty to disclose the results under Wyoming law. However, the court found that a jury must decide whether the company was negligent or caused the couple harm.

The ruling overturned a decision by a federal judge in Wyoming, who had thrown out the couple’s lawsuit against Farm Bureau.

Renna and Gary Pehle were unaware they had HIV until Renna Pehle began showing symptoms of AIDS in 2001, two years after they applied for insurance from Farm Bureau and were denied, according to the ruling.

Farm Bureau had notified the couple in a letter that their application was denied based on blood tests results, but the insurance company did not indicate the results of an HIV test, according to the ruling.

Farm Bureau offered to send the test results to the couple’s physician with their written authorization, but the couple did not make an inquiry, the ruling said.

After Renna Pehle began showing symptoms of AIDS, the couple asked Farm Bureau for the blood test results.

The couple filed a federal negligence lawsuit against Farm Bureau; LabOne Inc., which conducted the blood testing; and the lab’s medical director, Dr. J. Alexander Lowden. LabOne and Lowden have been dismissed from the lawsuit.

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