Geico is known for its commercials featuring a Gecko lizard that finds itself in various situations. The commercials range from the Gecko visiting a clothing-optional beach, to sailing in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, to nearly getting hit by a falling chestnut while walking in a forest. Geico’s creative marketing team likely couldn’t imagine Geico would be in a circumstance in which it had to ask a court to determine if Geico is obligated to cover its insured for spreading an STD while having unprotected sex in the insured’s Hyundai.
The facts of this unusual case might make the Gecko blush. The insured had unprotected sex several times with a partner in his vehicle and allegedly did not tell her that he had a highly contagious STD, which she contracted. The partner retained an attorney and sent Geico a demand letter to resolve her claim for damages against the insured for $1 Million – the policy limit. Geico investigated the claim and obtained information supporting a few defenses, including that the insured and his partner had sex in locations other than the vehicle, the partner had other sexual partners during that time, and that the insured told her he had STDs. In the meantime, without notice to Geico, the insured and his partner submitted her claim against him to arbitration, and the next day an arbitrator awarded her $5.2 Million. The insured and the partner then entered into an agreement authorizing the partner to collect only from Geico. The partner filed a petition to confirm the arbitration award in state court, in which Geico appeared and tried to vacate the award, arguing it was a sham. Notwithstanding Geico’s claims, the state court confirmed the arbitration award and entered a $5.2 Million judgment.
In the declaratory judgment case, filed in federal court in Kansas, Geico alleges that the auto insurance policy only applies to bodily injuries arising “out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the…auto,” and that the damages have no nexus to the ownership, maintenance, or covered use of the Hyundai, but rather, her injuries were the result of an intervening event, i.e. the partner’s own failure to prevent transmission of the STD by having unprotected sex.
The complaint in the declaratory judgment action is available here, and a decision from the court about whether the insured and his partner can proceed anonymously using their initials in the case, which includes a deeper dive into the facts, is available here.