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Earlier this month, the Missouri Court of Appeals made a decision that made headlines around the world: it revealed that Geico was responsible for a $5.2 million reward to a Missouri woman who was infected with HPV. The woman’s partner had car insurance with Geico, and since the two had sex in his car, she alleged that Geico should cover her injuries and losses.
The price came out of Jackson County. The woman, known in court records only as MO, had submitted a settlement offer to Geico, saying she would have to pay for her infection. The company refused.
So MO and his partner agreed to enter arbitration – and there the arbitrator they hired concluded that MO deserved $5.2 million. They then filed the award with Jackson County Circuit Court.
At that time, Geico attempted to intervene. But, crucially, the judge first adopted and incorporated the arbitrator’s decision – and only then granted the company’s motion to enter the case.
That let the company catch up on its appeal, attorney Connie McFarland-Butler said. “If the judgment is given and you come in after the judgment has been given, in essence you have no real rights,” she said.
In a 3-0 decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District of the state agreed. Under the version of Missouri law in effect at the time of the couple’s interaction (the law was changed in 2021), he concluded that the insurance company had no right to pursue the case. or to intervene before judgment is rendered.
Mark Smith, an attorney and former University of Washington vice chancellor, said Geico may have a dispute with his client over whether his actions in the car were covered by the police. But the court concluded that he lacked the capacity to challenge MO’s claim.
“They say, ‘You won’t have a new trial,'” he explained. “If he wants to sue you, Geico, you throw down your defense whether or not [he’s] covered, but you can’t relive, question, whether or not she got it from him in that car, or if she got it from another place, or the nature of the damage.
Lawyers discussed the case on Saint Louis liveLegal Roundtable. Smith said he had some sympathy for the couple’s claims. “I’ve paid my premiums to this insurance company all my life, and now when I need them, they say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not covered. You’re on your own.’ And so maybe they shouldn’t do that.
McFarland-Butler agreed that the insurer’s decision to dismiss MO’s claim, without attempting to offer payment or give legal representation to its client, likely caused regret at Geico headquarters.
“They let it sway in the wind,” she said. “And I’m sure there are heads rolling at Geico over the decision not to provide him with a defence.”
The case is not over yet. McFarland-Butler noted that Geico had filed in federal court, seeking a declaration that such activity was not covered by insurance. This action could still offer a reprieve to the company.
Even so, she suggested, the company might be wise to settle with MO now.
“I don’t know if she’ll hit a million or more, but maybe it would be in Geico’s best interest to funnel some money to make this thing go away,” she said.
Along with attorney Bill Freivogel, the Legal Roundtable also discussed a case of a graduate student against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, who ordered her to have no contact or even “indirect communication” with three classmates who had accused her of harassment and microaggressions. The panel agreed that the university went too far and acted without due process by telling Maggie DeJong to stay away from her peers in the art therapy program who had complained about her conservative views. and Christian.
The panel also discussed a jury verdict against the promoters of the LouFest music festivalthe fate of a woman from Missouri who lied to a federal judge about the whereabouts of his chimpanzeeand one successful action for small claims against the application of the City of St. Louis income tax even to remote workers during the pandemic.
Main image via Flickr/Denis Cumak
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