In M.O. v. GEICO, No. SC99732 , -- S.W.3d -- (Jan. 10, 2023) – The Supreme Court of Missouri enforced an insurer's right to intervene in a suit against its insured under Section 537.065.2 (2017). The Missouri Supreme Court ruled unanimously to overturn a lower court’s ruling and held that GEICO should have had a chance to weigh in sooner on the case, and sent the case back to the lower court for further discussion. GEICO might still need to pay a settlement later on, depending on the verdict of the court.
The underlying case involves a woman, identified only as M.O., alleging to have contracted Human Papillomavirus (HPV) after she had sexual relations with a male partner in a 2014 Hyundai Genesis insured by GEICO. In the original complaint filed in 2021, M.O. alleges that because the man knew he had HPV and did not tell her, both he and his insurer were liable.
The insurer denied coverage of the claim under the insured’s automobile liability policy. Thereafter, the claimant and the insured entered into a Section 537.065 agreement, where they agreed the claims against the insured would be submitted to arbitration, with recovery of any judgment limited to insurance. After arbitration resulted in a $5.2 million award against the insured, the insurer was informed of the Section 537.065 agreement. The insurer timely moved to intervene in the resulting lawsuit pursuant to a statutory right granted by the 2017 version of Section 537.065.2. The trial court entered judgment confirming the arbitration award in favor of the claimant before ruling on the insurer’s motion to intervene. Only after the judgment was entered against the insured did the trial court permit the insurer’s intervention.
Pictured: The Supreme Court of Missouri
The Supreme Court of Missouri ultimately vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case, concluding the insurer was entitled, but denied the opportunity, to intervene in the suit before judgment was entered. The Supreme Court declined to address what the insurer could or should have been permitted to do if the trial court properly allowed intervention before entry of judgment, noting doing so “would be purely advisory.”
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About the Author: Jennifer Dancy
Jenny is senior counsel in Tressler's Litigation Practice Group. She focuses her practice in general defense litigation, personal injury, constitutional torts, local government law issues, transportation, property damage, insurance coverage and employment law. Jenny relies upon her vast courtroom, deposition, motion practice, discovery and appellate experience to handle all aspects of litigation. She has effectively litigated cases in counties throughout Missouri and Texas as well as in various federal and appellate courts. Jenny has had positive outcomes through alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and has also had many successful dispositive motions in both state and federal courts.
Jenny Dancy practices in Tressler's Chicago and St. Louis Metro Area offices. She is admitted to the bar in Illinois, Missouri, and Texas. Click here to read Jenny's full attorney biography.