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Case representing man refused dental care because he has HIV.

Case Summary

Richard Doust, who has HIV, called a dental advertising service with a dental emergency and was referred to a dentist. Doust completed forms that disclosed he has HIV. Doust asserts that once the dentist learned he had HIV, the dentist took Doust into his office, explained that his staff did not feel comfortable assisting him, then tried to refer him elsewhere for treatment. Doust filed suit in state court in Middlesex County, New Jersey, against the dentist and the dental advertising service. He alleged violation of New Jersey disability antidiscrimination law. Lambda Legal joined in representing Doust.

The dentist denied the allegations, claiming he did not refuse treatment. The parties settled the case. As part of the settlement, the dentist agreed to publicly urge dentists nationwide to fulfill their legal and ethical obligations to treat patients with HIV.


Lambda Legal hears from many people who are denied services because they have HIV, even though state and federal laws forbid such discrimination. In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that it is illegal to deny dental services to patients who have HIV. Despite that ruling, people living with HIV continue to be denied access to health care, including dental services. By representing Doust, Lambda Legal was able to demonstrate that denial of health care both continues and is illegal.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

Lambda Legal joined this case to help strengthen discrimination protections under New Jersey law as well as educate dentists and the general public about the illegality of HIV discrimination.

    • July 2002 Doust files lawsuit in Superior Court in Middlesex County, New Jersey, alleging violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.
    • October 2002 Lambda Legal formally joins Kathleen Dunnigan in representing Doust.
    • May 2003 Parties settle the case.