GEICO Gen. Ins. Co. v. Brauner, No. 422CV00082CVWFJG, 2023 WL 2473313, at *1 (W.D. Mo. Mar. 10, 2023)
After contracting the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) M.O. made a demand on Geico which was rejected and a defense was denied to Brauner as well. M.O. and Brauner entered into a §537.065 agreement, obtained an arbitration award for $5,200,000.00 and had that award confirmed by and reduced to judgment by a Missouri Circuit Court. The Arbitrator found that “…there was sexual activity in Brauner’s automobile in November/December 2017” that “directly caused, or directly contributed to cause, M.O. to be infected with HPV.”
Geico was able to get this matter into federal court where the issue to be decided was whether sexual activity, resulting in HPV, in Brauner’s automobile was “…bodily injury… arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the owned auto or a non-owned auto…” The Court resolved this issue under Kansas law, which in the area of contract interpretation is similar nationwide.
Geico correctly argued that under Kansas law, the fact that an automobile is the situs of an injury does not necessarily mean that the injury arises from the use of that automobile, citing an unpublished opinion finding that transmission of a sexually transmitted disease on a yacht did not constitute a “bodily injury … arising out of the yacht” as “there is no causal connection between the yacht and a disease transmitted during voluntary sexual conduct on the yacht.” The general rue in Kansas is “For an automobile insurer to be liable for an automobile accident, unless the express language of an insurance policy provides otherwise, the automobile must, in some manner, be involved in the accident, and the mere fact that an accident takes place in or near the automobile does not impose responsibility upon the insurer.” GEICO argued that the auto at issue in this case was not being used as a vehicle when the transmission of HPV occurred; instead, it was the mere situs of the alleged negligence, or at best was being used as a shelter, which is also an insufficient use under Kansas law to trigger coverage under Kansas auto policies.
As is typical Brauner argued multiple alleged ambiguities in the policy language, none of which impressed the Court. Brauner’s primary argument was that the injury here is a result of a natural and reasonable incident or consequence of the use of the involved vehicle, and Kansas law requires no more than a minimal causal connection between the use of the vehicle and the injury, citing a case finding a sufficient causal connection where the vehicle had been used to transport hunters and a gun discharged injuring a party. Brauner argued that “people have been generally known to have used vehicles as a venue for sexual relations dating back to the invention of the automobile and if GEICO wanted to exclude coverage for sex in a car, it could have done so.”
In finding no coverage the Court held, “Upon review of the parties’ arguments, the Court finds that consensual sexual relations inside a car do not constitute a “use” of the automobile within the meaning of the subject policy. If the Court applied a mere “foreseeability” concept such as what Brauner advocates for in reply to this summary judgment motion, all manner of injuries would become covered injuries despite having no real relationship between the use of an auto as an auto. Here, there is no real causal connection between the transmission of HPV and Brauner’s vehicle; instead, the vehicle is the mere situs of the transmission of venereal disease. Accordingly, the Court finds that summary judgment must be granted in GEICO’s favor.”
Hopefully this sad chapter in Missouri legal history is over for good.