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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Woman Sues Club Med After Contracting Herpes Says Instructor Spread Disease, Club Condones Sex With Guests

San Francisco Examiner

A San Francisco businesswoman says in a lawsuit that she contracted genital herpes after having sex with a Club Med scuba diving instructor at the worldwide resort operator’s Caribbean vacation spot in Cancun, Mexico.

The suit is the latest in an unrelated series of legal actions charging sexual misconduct - including rape - by employees of the Frenchowned Club Mediterranee S.A. and its subsidiary Club Med Inc.

“It’s unconscionable someone would do this. He should have been forbidden from having sex with guests,” the woman, a 41-year-old certified public accountant, said in an interview.

She fell ill immediately after visiting Club Med early last year, she said.

Club Med’s attorney in the case, Bettina Plevan, denied the charges and declined further comment. Joe Townsend, senior vice president and secretary-treasurer of Club Med Inc., refused to discuss allegations that resort employees have engaged in a broad pattern of sexual misconduct.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeks unspecified damages. It accuses Club Med of failing to ensure that its employees “did not abuse the title and position of their employment … to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering.”

One of the woman’s attorneys, April Strauss, asserted that Club Med encouraged its employees - called in French gentils organisateurs (congenial organizers), or “g.o.’s” - to have sex with resort guests.

“It would appear to be a policy to condone that behavior - it’s part of the package,” Strauss said.

The same issue was raised in another case against Club Med by a California woman on behalf of her 14-year-old daughter. The teenager claimed to have been raped in 1990 by an employee of the resort at Playa Blanca, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

Citing secret sworn testimony - including statements by the resort manager - the woman’s attorneys, Robert Galler and Rick Bennett of Oakland, alleged in court records in January: “The Club Med resort … encouraged … sexual liaisons between Club Med employees and resort guests. Sex between employees and guests was not a violation of any Club Med policy or practice.

“Management … was aware of sexual relationships between employees and guests, and management provided condoms to its employees for use at the resort. The only prohibition … was to avoid problem situations such as pursuing married women.”

Club Med’s attorneys denied the claims. The Playa Blanca case settled in February. Bennett said he couldn’t reveal the terms.

Herpes is a nonfatal but incurable viral disease infecting 40 million Americans. With treatment, it can be controlled, and transmission can be prevented, but painful, potentially infectious outbreaks recur.

The San Francisco businesswoman said she had gone to Club Med Cancun with four friends from the Bay Area on Jan. 28, 1995, hoping “to meet someone,” but not necessarily a resort staff member.

“Most of the staff are really young,” she said.

Two days after arriving, she said, she took a group diving lesson from an instructor she described as different from the typical Club Med employee: “He was in his 50s, American, retired from the Navy.”

After a second group lesson on Feb. 1, 1995, the woman said, the instructor “put his arms around me to warm me up” while she stood on a pier, shivering. The third lesson, held the next day, was individual. Afterward, she said, “He asked me to his place for lunch - and then said, as we were walking, no lunch, just him.”

In the room, her lawsuit says, he continued to make advances, and when she asked him if he had a sexually transmitted disease, he said no. He also asked her to return to his room after dinner, the suit says. “I agreed to meet him at 10 p.m.,” she said. “I wasn’t ready for sex. I told him it had been a long time.”

But they did have sex that night, the suit says. The woman “now believes that this was her first contact with the herpes virus,” the suit says. They had no further contact until she boarded a bus to leave several days later, the woman said.

“He kissed me and told me to find someone and have a regular sex life,” she said.

On March 11, 1995, she awoke in pain. Three days later, herpes was diagnosed.