Geico may be on the hook for a $5.2 million legal settlement after a woman alleged she contracted a sexually transmitted disease in a car insured by the company.
A Missouri court on Tuesday upheld a judgment that awarded the money to the woman, who is referred to “M.O.” in court documents. M.O. claimed she caught the human papillomavirus (HPV) from having sex in 2017 with a male partner in his 2014 Hyundai Genesis, which was covered by Geico, according to a 2021 complaint.
The woman, who learned she was infected with HPV in 2018, claimed the man knew he had HPV but failed to inform her, leaving her with “past and future medical expenses” and “mental and physical pain and suffering.”
The woman alerted Geico that she was pursuing legal action against the man, claiming that she was negligently infected in the vehicle and that the car insurance policy should provide coverage for her injuries and losses. According to the complaint, M.O. asked Geico for $1 million. “Let me know,” she wrote.
Geico denied the coverage and rejected her claim. After that, M.O. and the man entered arbitration, and the arbitrator found that the man had negligently infected her and awarded damages of $5.2 million to M.O., which were to be paid by Geico.
Geico appealed the judgment, but the Missouri ruling on Tuesday found that the insurer lacked legal grounds to appeal on several points, including that it “had no right to relitigate” issues after liability and damages had been set by an arbitrator and confirmed by a trial court.
In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, Geico said, “The question of whether there is coverage for this matter will be determined” by a federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Geico fights case in federal court
Geico had also claimed that it was “denied the right to litigate its interests before judgment was entered against its insured.” But the ruling found that the company had the chance to participate and defend its interests when M.O. contacted Geico to claim that the insurance policy should cover her injury and losses.
“Geico did not take advantage of this opportunity, and instead denied coverage and refused to defend Insured,” the court noted.
However, Geico may not have to pay the $5.2 million judgment given the related federal court case filed by the insurer, which contests that the claim is covered by its auto policy, according to the Kansas City Star, which earlier reported on the Missouri ruling.