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Woman Loses Herpes Suit Against Fitness Centers

September 28, 1986

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A jury took only 45 minutes to decide that a 24-year-old woman did not contract herpes from whirlpool baths at two fitness centers where she worked and exercised.

The jury refused to award anything to the woman for being ″stuck with this stigma for the rest of her life,″ as her lawyer had argued.

Circuit Judge Anthony Harris told the jurors their decision was proper.

″There’s no medical evidence the disease can be transmitted other than by people,″ he said Friday.

The woman had sued the fitness centers in Lexington and West Columbia and their parent company, claiming she got herpes on her upper back and part of leg because of negligent sanitation procedures.

Her claim depended on a scientific study several years ago that said the Herpes Simplex II virus, which causes genital herpes, could live on inanimate objects.

The woman, Kathy Snelgrove, testified that she could not have gotten herpes from sexual relations she had before October 1984, when she first noticed the rash on her upper back part of one leg.

In addition, a Department of Health and Environmental Control employee testified that the two Spa Lady fitness centers had been warned about sanitary problems in their whirlpools.

The defense countered with testimony from Charles S. Bryan, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, who said there was no scientific proof that anyone had gotten herpes from whirlpools, saunas or toilets.

Defense attorney Jeff Silver also noted that Ms. Snelgrove had been a manager at the Lexington spa and assistant manager in West Columbia and therefore was responsible for their upkeep.

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