The Florida Bar

January 31, 1967

A lawyer who represented one party to a three-vehicle accident may not then represent a second party to the accident, whose interests may include prosecution of a claim against the original client, in the absence of consent of both clients after full disclosure.

Canon: 6

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A three-vehicle automobile accident gives rise to the present inquiry. For purposes of description we shall describe the vehicles from back to front of the accident as A, B, and C. The accident occurred when vehicle A struck vehicle B from the rear, pushing vehicle B forward into the rear of vehicle C.

The occupants of vehicle B retained a firm with which the inquirer was associated to prosecute a claim against the parties responsible for the operation of vehicle A. The inquirer assisted in the handling of this claim. Subsequently the firm handling this claim was dissolved and the inquirer has had no further connection with the handling of the claim on behalf of the occupants of vehicle B, which claim is apparently still pending.

The inquirer is now requested by an occupant of vehicle C to represent her interests in the matter. These interests may include the prosecution of a claim against vehicle B. We are asked as to the propriety of the representation of the occupant of vehicle C, with the additional request that we comment upon the propriety of this representation if an investigation revealed that vehicle B was in fact stopped at the time when the accident occurred and was merely pushed into vehicle C. Presumably the latter inquiry is premised upon the conclusion that in such instance there would be no liability on those responsible for the operation of vehicle B.

It is our opinion that Canon 6, regulating conflicts of interest, governs in this instance and that the inquirer may not ethically undertake to represent the occupant of vehicle C except with the express consent of that client and of the clients of his former firm coming after full disclosure of the circumstances. In our judgment a mere determination on his part that there was no liability on the part of those responsible for the operation of vehicle B would not be adequate to meet the criteria imposed by this Canon. Thus in the absence of the informed consent required by the Canon, the representation proposed would be improper.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]