Missouri Court Affirms Arbitration Award For Damages For STI Contracted In Vehicle
In M.O. v. Geico General Insurance Company and Government Employees Insurance Company, a Missouri appellate court affirmed the confirmation of a large arbitration award stemming from a claim by a plaintiff that she sustained damages when she contracted HPV while having unprotected sex with her partner in his vehicle. Plaintiff submitted a settlement offer to her partner’s automobile insurer GEICO, asserting that its insured negligently infected her in his automobile, and that the GEICO policy provided coverage for her injuries. GEICO denied coverage and rejected her settlement offer. Plaintiff and the insured subsequently agreed to arbitrate plaintiff’s claims and an arbitrator found that the insured negligently infected plaintiff and awarded her $5.2 million in damages.
Plaintiff filed an action to confirm the award while GEICO moved to intervene. The trial court confirmed the award and GEICO appealed asserting, among other things, that it was not given a meaningful opportunity to defend its interests or move to vacate the arbitration award. The Missouri Court of Appels, Western District, affirmed the trial court’s decision and found that GEICO had an opportunity to defend this matter during the arbitration and had no right to re-litigate the issues once the arbitration award was affirmed.
GEICO also filed a declaratory judgment action in which it asserts that plaintiff’s damages have no nexus to the “ownership, maintenance, or use” of the vehicle, and that her injuries were caused by an intervening cause, namely her own failure to have protected sex. A decision regarding the coverage issues is pending.
While the M.O. v. GEICO decision was procedural in nature, the case raises an interesting coverage issue that will be decided by a Missouri federal and could have a potential impact on automobile coverage in other states. WCM will monitor the coverage developments and provide an update in the future.
Thank you to Gabriella Scarmato for her contribution to this post. Please contact Andrew Gibbs with any questions.