A district court judge reversed a previous court decision that ordered GEICO to pay millions to a woman with HPV.
Remember when a woman sued GEICO for getting an STD and won millions? Reversing that previous Jackson County court decision, United States District Judge Fernando M. Gaitan Jr. ruled in March 2023 that GEICO doesn’t have to pay millions for the HPV-infected woman’s past and future medical expenses after all, nor is the auto insurance company liable for her mental and physical pain and suffering.
In December 2019, a woman identified in court documents as M.O. had unprotected sex with someone in the person’s GEICO-insured vehicle, a 2014 Hyundai Genesis, in Jackson County, Missouri. The insured person knowingly had HPV but did not disclose this information to M.O., later saying he was not aware he could transmit the virus. However, M.O. contracted the sexually transmitted disease.
Infected with HPV, M.O. submitted a third-party insurance claim to the GEICO insurance company, wanting coverage for her bodily injuries arising from the HPV, along with damages for pain and suffering under the insured’s personal umbrella and personal auto insurance policies. In April 2021, GEICO denied this coverage, rejecting her settlement offer.
The next month, the courts awarded M.O. $5.2 million in damages — $4.7 million less than her requested amount, but still a significant payday.
In June 2022, GEICO filed an appeal against the Jackson County Court, saying the company didn’t have a meaningful opportunity to defend its interests.1 GEICO sued both the insured driver and M.O. herself.
On March 10, 2023, Judge Gaitan of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled in favor of GEICO.
In the auto insurance policy’s Endorsements and Amendments section, the language says that the insurer would be financially responsible for “bodily injury sustained by an eligible injured person caused by an accident arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle.” However, GEICO maintained that the transmission of an STD is not a covered use of the vehicle and did not arise from the use of the vehicle, as it could have occurred with or without the car.
Judge Gaitan agreed in his court ruling, stating that “for an automobile insurer to be liable for an automobile accident, unless the express language of an insurance policy provides otherwise, the automobile must, in some manner, be involved in the accident, and the mere fact that an accident takes place in or near the automobile does not impose responsibility upon the insurer.” He granted GEICO’s motion for summary judgment, meaning the insurance provider now has no duty to defend or indemnify the insured over the third-party bodily injury claim.2 Simply put, GEICO isn’t responsible for M.O.’s damages.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE S. MARGENE BURNETT, JUDGE. Missouri Court of Appeals Western District. (2022, Jun 7).
Case 4:22-cv-00082-FJG. Missouri Court of Appeals Western District. (2023, Mar 10).