And Now for Something Completely Different…Auto Insurer Covers Insured’s Dashboard Dalliance??
In M.O. v. GEICO General Ins. Co. No. WD84722 (Mo. Ct. App. June 7, 2022), a Missouri appellate court has confirmed a $5.2M arbitration award against GEICO in favor of petitioner M.O. who alleged that having unprotected sex with GEICO’s insured in his 2014 Hyundai Genesis caused her to contract the human papilloma virus. In this case – which went viral almost immediately after being issued – GEICO intervened into M.O.’s action to confirm her $5.2M award, claiming that it had no meaningful opportunity to defend its interests. Its argument was simple: The insured’s failure to protect against STD transmission was the intervening cause of M.O.’s injuries, and was not part of normal ownership, maintenance, and use of the insured Hyundai. In his article, Randy Malinoff raises the obvious coverage conundrum: “how is having unprotected sex in a Hyundai, that leads to the contraction of an STD, covered under an automobile policy in the first place?”
Bottom line: This case exposes an unusual award in an otherwise confidential arbitration to reveal that insurers are often unprotected from such arbitral anomalies.
OMGosh. It has been non-stop chatter about last week’s Missouri Court of Appeals decision holding that GEICO could owe $5.2 million to a woman who contracted human papillomavirus from having unprotected sex in its insured’s 2014 Hyundai Genesis. The case has been covered by such major media as CNN, NBC, CBS, The Washington Post, and on and on and on. [In fact, seven CO readers sent me the opinion and suggested that I include it in the newsletter. I’m not sure if I should be flattered or concerned that people think of me when crazy cases come up.]
Of course, $5.2 million and sex in a car is an easy headline. But those media big boys don’t address the real issue at hand. For that, you need to go to tiny little, low budget, one man band, Coverage Opinions.
First, in the decision getting all the hoopla, the Missouri Court of Appeals, in M.O. v. GEICO General Ins. Co, No. WD84722 (Mo. Ct. App. June 7, 2022), rejected GEICO’s argument that it did not have a meaningful opportunity to defend its interests, when it intervened in an action where M.O., the victim, was seeking to confirm an arbitrator’s award, of $5.2 million, for the damages that she sustained on account of contracting the STD. Without getting into the details about GEICO’s initial involvement in the claim, and how it ended up in arbitration, the case is essentially procedural, addressing the rights of an intervenor under Missouri law and the ability to challenge an arbitration award.