The Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a $5.2 million judgment involving a Jackson County, Missouri woman who said she unknowingly caught HPV, the human papillomavirus, during unprotected sex in the luxury sedan of a former male romantic partner in 2017. After the woman informed Geico that she was seeking damages, a Jackson County Circuit Court arbitrator ruled the year last that the man was responsible for not disclosing his infection, saying that the sex in the car “directly caused or contributed to the cause” of the woman. HPV contracture.
Geico had argued that the judgment did not comply with Missouri law, telling the court that the man’s policy covered injuries that arose only “from the ownership, maintenance or use of the… automobile”. The company also claimed that the injuries sustained by the woman, identified in court documents as MO, “resulted from an intermediate cause – namely, her inability to prevent the transmission of STDs by having unprotected sex.”
In an opinion released this week, a three-judge panel sided with the lower court, saying Geico did not have a strong case on appeal once a judgment is issued and damages from $5.2 million has been determined.
“At the time of Geico’s intervention, liability and damages had been determined by an arbitrator and affirmed by the trial court,” Court of Appeals Judge Edward R. Ardini Jr. wrote in the notice. “Geico had no right to raise these questions.”
A spokesperson for Geico did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Thursday. A lawyer for the woman is not listed in court documents.
The story was first reported by the Kansas City Star.
MO and the man, identified in court documents as MB, began a romantic relationship in late 2017, records show. At one point during this relationship, the couple had sex inside MB’s 2014 Hyundai Genesis – a luxury sedan that Kelley Blue Book loved “leaves very little to criticize”.
The woman alleged that the Kansas man had previously been diagnosed with HPV – the most common STD in the United States and a precursor to various cancers – but “did not tell MO about it or take steps to prevent transmission of the virus to MO”. a gynecological exam about a year into the relationship, the woman was diagnosed with HPV, according to court records.
“She later learned that she had contracted the virus from MB,” the complaint reads.
Knowing that MB was insured by Geico, the woman sent a letter to the insurance company in February 2021 seeking $1 million in damages for “negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.”
“Let me know,” MO wrote.
After Geico investigated the claim, the insurance company argued that the man told the woman he had been diagnosed with HPV-positive throat cancer and that the man had no was diagnosed with the STD before 2017, according to court documents. Geico also suggested the woman could have been infected by another sexual partner and maintained that the couple had sex in places other than the insured vehicle, records show.
When the insurance company refused to settle and said the woman failed to prevent her STD infection, the case went to arbitration. In May 2021, an arbitrator sided with MO and awarded it $5.2 million in damages to be paid by Geico. The insurance company called for a rehearing and for the award to be set aside, arguing that the judgment violated Geico’s due process rights. Geico ended up filing a formal appeal with the state when those claims were denied by the lower court.
In a separate opinion Tuesday, Court of Appeals Judge Thomas N. Chapman agreed with his colleagues in their decision to side with the lower court’s settlement, but wrote that he believed Geico did not had had “no meaningful opportunity to participate” in the woman’s trial and existing state law “relegates the insurer to bystander status.”
It is unclear whether Geico will ultimately pay the settlement resulting from the HPV infection. The insurance company is challenging the decision in federal court, arguing that the claim is not covered by the policy, the Star reported. The outcome of this case could determine whether Geico is obligated to pay MO more than $5 million in damages.
The case could have a lasting influence on how insurance companies compensate for incidents that occur inside an insured vehicle, U.S. Magistrate Judge Angel D. Mitchell wrote last year.
“This case presents new and potentially significant questions about whether an insurance company can be held liable under such policies for the consequences of two adults having willful unprotected sex in the insured’s automobile” , Mitchell wrote last year. “The interpretation of these policies could have far-reaching implications for other policies with similar terms.”