Does Auto Insurance Policy Cover Spreading STD When Having Sex in a Car?
From the facts in Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. M.O., decided Thursday by Magistrate Judge Angel D. Mitchell (D. Kan.):
[GEICO] seek[s] a declaratory judgment to determine GEICO’s rights and obligations for its insured [under an auto insurance policy and an umbrella policy] for allegedly spreading a sexually transmitted disease [HPV, which can causes genital warts and, sometimes, cervical cancer] while voluntarily having unprotected sex in the insured’s automobile. GEICO’s insured is defendant M.B., and he allegedly gave the STD to defendant M.O.
M.O. demanded that GEICO pay her $1 million to resolve her claim against M.B., triggering GEICO to file this lawsuit ….
GEICO’s amended complaint alleges that, for the two policies GEICO issued to M.B., liability coverage is identical for all relevant intents and purposes. GEICO seeks a declaratory judgment that these policies do not provide coverage for M.O.’s alleged injuries, and therefore GIECO has no duty to defend or indemnify M.B. against M.O.’s claim.
Among other things, GEICO alleges that the auto policy only applies to bodily injuries arising “out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the … auto,” and that M.O.’s alleged damages have no nexus to the ownership, maintenance, or covered use of the 2014 Hyundai Genesis. In other words, the vehicle’s covered use did not cause M.O.’s alleged injuries; instead, her injuries arose from an intervening cause—namely, her failure to prevent transmission of STDs by having unprotected sex. Likewise, the umbrella policy does not provide coverage because it only applies if the auto policy provides coverage. GEICO also asserts that various policy exclusions preclude coverage under the umbrella policy.
The substantive question has yet to be decided, but naturally there are many procedural questions beforehand. They include including whether M.O. and M.B. engaged in a collusive arbitration of their dispute “to avoid GEICO’s right to intervene and be heard, to fix liability where it otherwise would not attach, and to obtain an artificially inflated award—all in an attempt to pursue insurance proceeds and extra-contractual monies from GEICO,” and also whether M.O. is subject to jurisdiction in Kansas.
But the one that particularly interests me is the one having to do with pseudonymity (about which I’m writing an article). Here’s what the court has to say about that:
Courts recognize the public’s general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents. This includes a public interest in knowing the litigants’ identities…. And although certain factors may heighten the public’s interest—such as cases involving public figures or public funds—the public’s interest in routine court proceedings is still significant…. “[T]here is a significant interest in open judicial proceedings even in ordinary civil litigation between private parties” because “[p]rivate civil suits, individually and certainly in the aggregate, do not only advance the parties’ private interests, but also further the public’s interest in enforcing legal and social norms.”
Although this case does not involve the use of p
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