Representation of Insured
Opinion finds no disqualifying conflict of interest where an attorney is retained by an insurer to represent an insured during the pendency of a declaratory judgment action relating to coverage in which the attorney is a nonparticipant.
Lawyer M was contacted by Insurance Company and asked to represent its insured, the Shady Rest Home, and its employee, Nurse N, who were named as defendants in a medical malpractice action brought by Plaintiff P. Lawyer M undertook the representation. Prior to filing responsive pleadings, Lawyer M received a communication from Attorney D, who advised Lawyer M that he, Attorney D, would be representing the Shady Rest Home and would be overseeing the litigation. Shortly thereafter, Lawyer M received a telephone call from a representative of Insurance Company advising him that Insurance Company would neither defend nor indemnify Shady Rest Home and Nurse N because they were not named insureds in the subject policy. Insurance Company also notified Shady Rest Home directly of its position. Attorney D then contacted Lawyer M to ask that Lawyer M continue the defense of Shady Rest Home and Nurse N and advised that Shady Rest Home would continue paying for Lawyer M's services. Lawyer M agreed to continue.
Soon thereafter, Lawyer M met the plaintiff's attorneys, Lawyers I and L, and informed them that a question of coverage had arisen and that Insurance Company had taken the position that it did not provide coverage for either defendant. Lawyer M indicated that Shady Rest Home could pay a small amount in settlement and further suggested that pursuit of the lawsuit would be fruitless because Shady Rest Home had no substantial assets. This effort to negotiate was unavailing.
In the meantime, Attorney D obtained information which caused Insurance Company to reconsider its position about coverage. Not long thereafter, Lawyer M was again contacted by a representative of Insurance Company and advised that Insurance Company had decided to provide a defense under a reservation of rights. Lawyer M was requested to provide Insurance Company with copies of his billings to Shady Rest Home so that the insurance company could reimburse Shady Rest Home and was further requested to bill Insurance Company in the future.
Subsequently, Lawyer M learned that Insurance Company filed a declaratory judgment action against Shady Rest Home, Nurse N and Plaintiff P to resolve the coverage question. In the meantime, Lawyer M continues to represent Shady Rest Home and Nurse N and has been paid for his services by the insurance company.
Lawyer M has represented only Shady Rest Home and Nurse N throughout the litigation. All information he has received has come through discovery, depositions and communications with Shady Rest Home and its employees. He has not been involved in the declaratory judgment litigation. Under the circumstances, may Lawyer M continue to represent Shady Rest Home and Nurse N?
Yes. Nothing in the facts as stated discloses a disqualifying conflict of interest. Rule 5.1(b).
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