A Missouri lawsuit adds a new twist to the kind of “bodily harm” in a car that’s covered by insurance.
This week, a three-judge panel of the state’s Court of Appeals, Western District, affirmed a $5.2 million settlement by a woman who caught a sexually transmitted disease from her former boyfriend in his car.
The woman, identified in court documents as M.O., said she contracted HPV, the human papillomavirus, from her boyfriend. She said he knew he had the disease but didn’t tell her.
An arbitrator found in May 2021 that the in-car sex had “directly caused, or directly contributed to cause” the STD transmission. The man was found liable. The woman was awarded $5.2 million to be paid by GEICO, which insured the man’s vehicle.
GEICO filed for the award to be overturned, alleging it had been denied due process and that the arbitration deal was unenforceable.
Court documents show that GEICO claimed the man’s policy covered only injuries that came “out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the…auto” and that the woman’s “injuries arose from an intervening cause — namely, her failure to prevent transmission of STDs by having unprotected sex.”
The state appellate panel ruled July 7 that the lower court made no mistake in the case and upheld the decision.
The Kansas City Star reported that one of the judges concurred but said GEICO was offered “no meaningful opportunity to participate” in the lawsuit and existing law “relegat(es) the insurer to the status of a bystander.”
“This case presents novel and potentially important issues about whether an insurance carrier can be held liable under such policies for the consequences of two adults voluntarily having unprotected sex in the insured’s automobile,” noted U.S. Magistrate Judge Angel D. Mitchell in court documents. “Interpretation of these policies could have far-reaching implications for other policies with similar terms.