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Geico must pay $5.2M to woman who caught STI in man’s insured car

In this photo illustration, the Geico logo (which stands for Government Employees Insurance Company) is seen displayed on a smartphone. Rafael Henrique/Getty Images

Geico may have to pay US$5.2 million to a woman who caught the human papillomavirus (HPV) after having unprotected sex in the insured Hyundai Genesis of her then-partner.

The decision was reached Tuesday by the Court of Appeals for the Western District of Missouri, which ordered the insurance company to pay the multi-million-dollar legal settlement to the woman, identified only as “M.O.” in court filings.

The woman said she “engaged in unprotected sexual activities in Insured’s vehicle” in November and December 2017 and learned that she had contracted HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection, a year later during a regularly scheduled gynecology exam, according to a 2021 complaint.

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M.O. claimed that her male partner knew he had HPV but did not inform her. She argued that his lack of disclosure caused “mental and physical pain and suffering” and left her with a bill for “past and future” medical expenses.

The woman notified Geico that she was pursuing legal action against the man, identified as “M.B.,” and asked the insurance company for a settlement of $1 million. She claimed that she was negligently infected in M.B.’s vehicle and his car insurance policy through Geico should cover her injuries and damages.

“Let me know,” she wrote.

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Geico turned down the claim and M.O. went to an arbitrator to settle her case against M.B. The arbitrator found in her favour and awarded her $5.2 million in damages, to be paid by Geico — a figure that was upheld by the Jackson County Circuit Court.

Geico appealed the settlement, and claimed it never had the chance to defend itself, calling the arbitration between M.O. and M.B. “collusive and a sham,” according to court filings.

“But GEICO did have the opportunity to participate and defend its interests — including the ability to challenge liability and damages — by entering a defense of Insured,” according to the appeals court, which bolded and italicized the word “did.”

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The court’s opinion was that the insurance company has “no right to relitigate those issues” now after liability and damages had been established both by an arbitrator and a trial court.

In a statement made on Thursday, Geico said the case is not yet fully settled and it is waiting on the results of a federal lawsuit filed in Missouri.

“The question of whether there is coverage for this matter will be determined,” the company said to CBS.

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Geico argues that it never had any responsibility to defend M.B., as it should only have to cover bodily injuries that arise “out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the … auto.”

“M.O.’s alleged damages have no nexus to the ownership, maintenance, or covered use of the 2014 Hyundai Genesis,” the company said in its 2021 complaint.

“In other words, the vehicle’s covered use did not cause M.O.’s alleged injuries; instead, her injuries arose from an intervening cause — namely, her failure to prevent transmission of STDs by having unprotected sex.”

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