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Insurance company can intervene in award, says high court

A $5.2 million arbitration award over a woman contracting HPV in an insured party’s car is going back to the drawing board. The Missouri Supreme Court determined an originating court violated the auto insurance company’s right to intervene.

GEICO General Insurance Company had denied coverage for plaintiff M.O. and her settlement offer in her claim that the insured party, M.B., had negligently infected her in his car. M.O. and M.B. entered into a $5.2 million arbitration agreement but did not notify GEICO until a day before M.O. filed the award before a trial court for confirmation.

GEICO motioned to intervene within the 30-day deadline under the 2017 version of section 537.065, which outlines the insurance intervention process. The trial court overruled GEICO’s other motions, including one to vacate the arbitration award, but the court didn’t grant GEICO’s motion to intervene until two minutes after it entered judgment in favor of M.O. before GEICO appealed.

David Mayer of Monsees & Mayer in Kansas City represented M.O. during Dec. 14 oral arguments. He did not respond to a call requesting comment. Douglas S. Beck of Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City represented GEICO during oral arguments. He did not respond to a call requesting comment.

The decision was simple in Judge Zel M. Fischer’s four-page opinion released Jan. 10.

“GEICO was statutorily entitled to intervene in the pending lawsuit between M.O. and M.B. because GEICO filed the motion to intervene, prior to entry of judgment, and within the 30 days of notice,” Fischer wrote.

The high court vacated the circuit court’s judgment approving the arbitration award and remanded the case without instructions. GEICO’s separate coverage dispute in federal court, in which it seeks declaratory judgment that it does not have a duty to defend or compensate M.B. for M.O.’s third-party bodily injury liability claim, is still pending in the U.S. District Court Western District of Missouri. The case is GEICO et al. v. Brauner et al., 4:22-CV-00082.

The case before the Missouri Supreme Court is M.O. v. GEICO et al., SC99732.