February 27, 2012

Toronto Strip club not liable after man contracts HIV from dancer, court told

Percy Whiteman, 36, is suing the Zanzibar Tavern in Toronto for negligence after he found out nearly eight years ago that he had unknowingly contracted the human immunodeficiency virus from his stripper ex-wife, Suwalee “Ricky” Iamkhong.

TORONTO — A popular Toronto strip club which employed an exotic dancer infected with HIV cannot be held liable if she passed the virus onto her husband, the Ontario Superior Court heard Wednesday.

Percy Whiteman, 36, is suing the Zanzibar Tavern for negligence after he found out nearly eight years ago that he had unknowingly contracted the human immunodeficiency virus from his ex-wife, Suwalee "Ricky" Iamkhong.

The exotic dancer, immigration doctor Martin Taylor and the federal government are also named as defendants in the $30-million lawsuit.

Whiteman alleges that the Zanzibar didn't do anything to stop him and Iamkhong from having unprotected sex in "dark, private places" on numerous occasions in the Yonge Street strip club.

He claims the club had an obligation to caution him about the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and urge him to use condoms with his Thai wife, who had also worked as a former prostitute in Hong Kong.

But a lawyer for the club argued it was ridiculous for a patron of any business to hold his wife's employer responsible for protecting him from infectious diseases.

"There's nothing more the bar could've done to protect the plaintiff from engaging in sexual relations in dark private places in the bar with his wife," lawyer Allyson Fox told Ontario Superior Justice Carole Brown.

Fox likened the situation to a patron of Starbucks or Chapters attempting to sue the coffee chain or bookstore after having an illicit tryst with one of its employees and then becoming infected with an STD.

It's unclear when and where Whiteman was infected with HIV. He and Iamkhong met at the Zanzibar, where he was a frequent patron.

"Mr. Whiteman was aware about contracting HIV through sexual contact," said Fox. "(And) he was concerned about Ms. Iamkhong when he met her."

The two were married from 1997 to 2004.

Whiteman only discovered about his ex-wife's HIV status when she was admitted to hospital with AIDS-like symptoms in March 2004.

Shortly after, he found out that she had tested positive for the virus in 1995 in Hong Kong after her first husband died of AIDS.

In August 2007, she was convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm for infecting Whiteman. She was deported to Hong Kong last year.

Whiteman also blames immigration officials, including a doctor, for not testing Iamkhong for HIV when she first immigrated to Canada in 1995 to work as a stripper.

Officials also should have been more diligent about her case because she was from Thailand, which at the time had high incidences of HIV cases, he alleged.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada only began mandatory HIV testing of immigrant applicants 15 years and older in 2002.

On Tuesday, the court heard Crown lawyers argue that Whiteman engaged in risky sexual behaviour and had only himself to blame for contracting the chronic virus.

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