The Florida Bar

October 25, 1974
An attorney who accepted employment by individual landowners in an inverse condemnation action, unaware that a landowners association had taken it upon itself to actively recommend his employment, may continue the representation.

CPR: DR 2-103, 2-104

Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar filed an inverse condemnation action against a governmental agency in behalf of several of the owners of property located in the same area. The individual plaintiffs seek to proceed as a class action and pray for a decree requiring the governmental agency to commence condemnation proceedings against themselves and all owners of similarly situated property.

The landowners' association, whose members include some but not all of the owners of property in the area, periodically prepares and circulates reports to its members regarding the status of their property and the actions of the governmental agency relating to it.

The association mailed a report to its members advising them of the inverse condemnation action and recommending that they contact the attorney who filed the action. In the same mailing, the association also circulated a form of employment contract authorizing the attorney to represent a property owner in any condemnation action that might be instituted by the governmental agency. Later, the association, as part of a membership drive, mailed the same materials to owners of other property located in the same area.

While the commencement of the inverse condemnation proceeding was pending, the governmental agency did in fact commence condemnation actions against the owners of a small number of the parcels of property in the area.

The inquiring attorney, who is not a member of the association, did not authorize or consent or know about the actions of the association recommending his employment. When he found out what happened, he instructed the association to stop. Before he knew of the association's activities, the attorney received inquiries from some of the owners of the property involved in the condemnation actions and agreed to represent several of those owners.

He asks whether he may properly continue to represent those clients.

The Committee is of the opinion that there is no impropriety in the attorney's continuing to represent the individual defendants in the condemnation actions.

The attorney did not consent to the association's activities; he did not know of the association's activities until after he agreed to take the cases. As soon as he learned what the association had been doing, he instructed it to stop. Under these circumstances, we do not believe that his further representation of the defendants in the condemnation actions violates the anti-solicitation provisions of DR 2-103 or DR 2-104 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]