Representation of Insurer and Insured in Declaratory Judgment Action
Opinion rules that a lawyer may represent an insurer and its insured as coplaintiffs in a declaratory judgment action.
This case involves a head-on accident in which the driver (Driver A) at fault was driving a vehicle (Vehicle X) owned by another individual (Owner B). According to Owner B, Driver A took Vehicle X without his permission or consent and without having any reasonable grounds to believe that he could operate the vehicle. In fact, Owner B subsequently reported Vehicle X as being stolen.
Firm F has been retained to represent Owner B in a tort action brought by the occupants of the other vehicle involved in the collision. The defense to the tort action is lack of agency, lack of permissive use, and lack of any reasonable grounds Driver A could have had to believe he could use the vehicle.
The carrier has also requested that Firm F initiate a declaratory judgment action both in its name and in the name of Owner B to determine whether or not the carrier must provide coverage to Driver A.
Can Firm F, as attorney for the owner in the tort claim, file a DJA naming both the liability carrier and owner as plaintiffs?
Yes. In the declaratory judgment action the interests of Owner B and the insurance carrier would not be in conflict.
THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR
217 E. Edenton Street • PO Box 25908 • Raleigh, NC 27611-5908 • 919.828.4620
Copyrightę North Carolina State Bar. All rights reserved.