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Geico off the hook in $5 million payout to woman who got STD in car

Geico is off the hook, at least for now, from paying $5.2 million to a Missouri woman who alleged she contracted a sexually transmitted disease in a car insured by the company.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously to overturn a lower court's ruling that favored paying the woman. Instead, the state Supreme Court judges said Maryland-based Geico should have had a chance to weigh in sooner and sent the case back to the lower court for further deliberation.

The case drew attention last year for its unusual legal strategy, with the woman claiming she caught the human papillomavirus (HPV) from having sex in 2017 with a male partner in his 2014 Hyundai Genesis, which was covered by Geico, according to a 2021 complaint. The woman, identified as "M.O." in the court documents, claimed the man was aware he had HPV but failed to tell her, leaving her with "past and future medical expenses" and "mental and physical pain and suffering."

HPV can cause cervical cancer, certain other cancers and genital warts.

In February 2021, M.O. alerted Geico she was pursuing legal action against the man, claiming that the car insurance policy should cover her injuries and financial losses. According to the complaint, she asked Geico for $1 million. "Let me know," she wrote.

But the insurance company refused the settlement, saying the woman's claim did not occur because of normal use of the vehicle, according to court documents. 

After that, M.O. and the man entered arbitration, and the arbitrator decided the man had negligently infected her and awarded damages of $5.2 million to the woman, which were to be paid by Geico.

Geico sought to intervene in the case but was denied by an appeals court. However, the latest ruling found that Geico was entitled to intervene in the lawsuit. The judges ruled that because the insurer wasn't given the opportunity to do so before the judgment was entered, the earlier court ruling should be vacated and sent back to a lower court.

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