Appeals Court Upholds $5 Million Award to Hudson Lover
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An appeals court upheld a $5 million award to the onetime lover of Rock Hudson, ruling the sum isn’t too large to compensate for ″the ultimate in personal horror,″ the fear of developing AIDS.
The California 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected arguments by the actor’s estate that Marc Christian failed to show a likelihood he contracted the AIDS virus during sexual relations with Hudson.
A jury ruled in February 1989 that Hudson was guilty of ″outrageous conduct″ for concealing his AIDS diagnosis from Christian, his lover for two years. Christian said he didn’t learn of the actor’s illness until a few months before Hudson, 58, died Oct. 2, 1985.
Although Christian didn’t contract AIDS and tested negative for the presence of the virus, the Superior Court jury and a judge found he deserved damages. Hudson’s estate appealed.
″In the case at bench, we deal with the ultimate in personal horror - the fear of a slow, agonizing, certain death,″ the appeals court said. Its decision was filed Thursday but released Monday.
Attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who represented Christian in the appeal, said the ruling sends a cautionary message to couples everywhere that ″this is a fatal disease and you should be honest with your partner.″
″I think it sends a very strong message that should be heeded by everyone before they engage in sex,″ Mitchelson said. ″People need to be honest and disclose to their partners where they stand.″
Mitchelson, Christian and lawyers for the Hudson estate were in settlement talks Monday morning when word reached them of the appeals court decision.
″This puts a new light on it,″ Mitchelson said. ″It’s a major hurdle.″
He said settlement talks will continue and may head off further appeals. If talks fail, the Hudson estate could seek review by the California Supreme Court.
Ellis Horvitz, attorney for the Hudson estate, said he was disappointed with the ruling. ″I think there’s a good likelihood it will be taken to the (state) Supreme Court,″ he said.
Mitchelson said Christian remains free of AIDS but fears he could still develop the disease, which has a long incubation period.
A three-judge appeals panel noted that Superior Court Judge Bruce Geernaert had reduced the jury’s award to Christian from $14.5 million to $5 million.
″Certainly, the $5 million damages award is large,″ the panel said, but added Geernaert ″could see and hear the witnesses″ and was in the best position to assess the proper award.
Geernaert ″was well aware that defendants’ liability was solely for the injury caused by sexual contact after Hudson had been diagnosed with AIDS,″ the appeals court said.
Hudson was one of Hollywood’s superstars for two decades, starring in such movies as ″Pillow Talk,″ ″Giant″ and ″Magnificent Obsession.″ His battle with AIDS brought worldwide attention to the disease.