HIV-positive man filed discrimination lawsuit against prominent plastic surgeon

PALM SPRINGS — A discrimination suit filed in Riverside Superior Court against Dr. Mark Vincent Sofonio, a Rancho Mirage-based plastic surgeon, for intentional infliction of emotional distress and discrimination by a local man who is HIV positive is settled after two years.

Alfie Pettit, who gained prominence as Arial Trampway, a drag queen, filed the lawsuit,

“The matter has been resolved,” Pettit told Uken Report. He declined to elaborate.

You may read the eye-opening mediation brief here.

Sofonio has repeatedly declined to comment on the pending litigation. He did not respond to a phone call Monday.

The lawsuit alleged Sofonio discriminated against Pettit in violation of the Disabled Persons Act. Pettit initially demanded a jury trial but ultimately agreed to mediation.

In a letter to Sofonio, Pettit’s attorney wrote, “Mr. Pettit’s claims are substantial.”

Pettit claims that on or around July 10, 2018, he set up an appointment with Sofonio’s Rancho Mirage office for a radiofrequency (RF) INTRAcel micro-needling treatment.

The INTRAcel RF Micro-Needling device is used for a variety of cosmetic procedures that can improve acne scarring, wrinkles, signs of aging, and can provide a non-surgical face lift.  An array of 49 micro-needles (0.3 mm) in a 1cm area delivers the RF heat energy into the middle layer of the skin, which triggers a repair response from the body. INTRAcel consists of a handheld applicator with a disposable single-use treatment tip that is disposed of after every treatment, according to the lawsuit

Pettit thought Sofonio’s office was “the perfect fit” for what he was looking for because Sofonio had the advanced technology, was close in proximity to Pettit, and Pettit had been a patient for many years,

According to the lawsuit, two hours after Pettit set up the appointment, a nurse called him to cancel it.  The nurse stated that the rejection was strictly because of Pettit’s “positive HIV status,” according to the lawsuit.

The nurse also allegedly stated that the manufacturer of the INTRAcel machine, Jeisys Medical Inc., does not allow the procedure on HIV positive patients.

According to the lawsuit, the nurse has been a regional trainer for Jeisys Medical Inc. Jeisys Medical Inc. does not actually restrict the use of their equipment on HIV positive patients, according to the lawsuit

Then, on or around late August, 2018, Pettit received a letter from Sonofio’s office stating that it would perform the INTRAcel procedure if Pettit agreed to pay for a replacement handpiece.

Pettit was “shocked” by the fact that he was being discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and/or HIV status when other patients don’t have to pay for a replacement handpiece, according to the lawsuit.

As a direct result of Sofonio’s conduct, Pettit has sustained and continues to sustain substantial losses in earnings, employment benefits, employment opportunities and other economic losses, according to the lawsuit.

Alfie Pettit, who ran unsuccessfully for the Palm Springs City Council in 2019, sought the following relief:

  • For compensatory damages, including loss of promotional opportunities and other opportunities of employment;
  • For special damages, including unpaid wages and unpaid expenses;
  • For injunctive relief;
  • For punitive damages in an amount necessary to make an example of and to punish Sonofio and to deter future similar misconduct;
  • For mental and emotional distress damages;
  • For an award of attorney’s fees;
  • For costs of lawsuit; and
  • For such other and further relief as the Court deems proper and just under all the circumstances.


Image Sources

  • Alfie Pettit: Alfie Pettit