You may have heard and even laughed about GEICO being sued by a Missouri woman who contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD) as a result of unprotected sex in a GEICO-insured vehicle. Beyond the sheer inventiveness of the plaintiff, this case is raising concern within the insurance industry. Could there be coverage? Is the personal auto policy (PAP) broad enough to require GEICO to pay this loss?
Let’s look at a few facts of Insurance Services Office’s (ISO’s) PAP to determine if this or any other promiscuous plaintiff has a case for STDs supposedly contracted in a car:
- There is no STD exclusion in the PAP such as is found in the Homeowners (HO) policy;
- Insurance Service Office’s PAP states that it covers the “You” (the named insured) for the ownership, maintenance or use of any auto (and the auto was certainly being used);
- “Bodily injury” is defined to mean bodily harm, sickness or disease, including death that results; and
- 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.
Remember, this article and the points made apply policy wording found in ISO’s PAP and not necessarily the applicable GEICO policy. However, it may be reasonable to assume that the provisions of the GEICO policy are somewhat similar.
With these policy provisions as the beginning point, it appears M.O. (the plaintiff’s alias) may have a case against GEICO 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; the first rule of reading any insurance policy – coverage can never be any broader than the insuring agreement. If the loss/claim does not make it past the insuring agreement, the remainder of the policy is irrelevant.
ISO’s personal auto policy contains four coverage parts. Part A extends liability coverage. The first sentence of the Part A insuring agreement reads:
PART A – LIABILITY COVERAGE
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 the news accounts 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.
If the GEICO policy contains the same or a similar requirement that the bodily injury must result from an auto accidentfor coverage to apply, then this suit should end in GEICO’s favor. If the GEICO policy wording does not, in some way, require legal liability for bodily injury resulting from an auto accident, this should be an interesting case to watch.
Given what is known about the case compared to the requirements of the ISO personal auto policy, there does not appear to be coverage for M.O. But lets’ give her credit for originality.
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. If GEICO’s PAP contains the same or a similar requirement found in ISO’s PAP, this case is over before it begins.
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