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Geico Sued by Woman Who Contracted STD in Car Insured by Carrier

The case is raising concern within the insurance industry as doubts remain as to whether there could be coverage under the personal auto policy.
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geico sued by woman who contracted std in car insured by carrier

A Missouri woman who contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD) as a result of unprotected sex in another person's Geico-insured vehicle has filed suit against the company. This case is raising concern within the insurance industry as doubts remain as to whether there could be coverage. Is the personal auto policy (PAP) broad enough to require Geico to pay this loss?

On reviewing ISO's personal auto insurance coverage policy to determine if this or any other plaintiff has a case for STDs supposedly contracted in a car, the following is clear:

  • There is no STD exclusion in a personal auto policy coverage like the one found in the homeowners policy.
  • The ISO's PAP states that it covers the “you" (the named insured) for the ownership, maintenance or use of any auto.
  • “Bodily injury" is defined to mean bodily harm, sickness or disease, including death that results.
  • The PAP pays for bodily injury for which an insured is legally liable. The court stated the vehicle's owner was legally liable for transmitting the STD to the plaintiff.

Note that this article and these points apply to policy wording found in the ISO's PAP and not necessarily the applicable Geico policy.

With the ISO policy provisions as the beginning point, the plaintiff, who is identified by court documents as M.O., may have a case in this $5.2 million suit seeking $1 million from Geico.

But before M.O. begins counting her Geico money, there is one rule of insurance she can't ignore: Coverage can never be any broader than the insuring agreement. If the eligibility of a loss or claim does not make it past the insuring agreement, the remainder of the policy is irrelevant.

The ISO's PAP contains four coverage parts. Coverage Part A extends liability coverage. The first sentence of the Part A insuring agreement reads:

PART A - LIABILITY COVERAGE

INSURING AGREEMENT

A. We will pay damages for "bodily injury" or "property damage" for which any "insured" becomes legally responsible because of an auto accident. 

Proving the STD is a result of the required auto accident seems unlikely, but reports don't give us all the details of the encounter. And it is possible to torture the meaning of “accident" to attempt to prove there is coverage, but that is a major stretch.

Given what is known about the case compared to the requirements of the ISO PAP, there does not appear to be coverage for M.O.

If the Geico policy contains the same or a similar requirement that the bodily injury must result from an auto accident for coverage to apply, then this suit should end in Geico's favor. If the Geico policy wording does not require legal liability for bodily injury resulting from an auto accident, then this should be an interesting case to watch.

Policy wording matters. Start at the beginning to determine if the loss or claim makes it past the insuring agreement. If it doesn't qualify under the insuring agreement, stop there. The remainder of the policy is just for show. But nevertheless, let's give this woman credit for originality.

Chris Boggs is Big “I" executive director of risk management and education.