The Florida Bar

June 21, 1965

A lawyer on retainer to an insurance company should not represent third-party claimants against the insurer. A lawyer not on retainer likewise should not represent third-party claimants if his relationship with the insurer would adversely affect the representation of the claimants or if he has obtained information from the insurer that could be used to the insurer's disadvantage in such representation.

Canon: 6

Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar inquires if it is proper for an attorney who represents an insurance company from time to time to accept employment from a third party to press a claim against that company. He states that the carrier is also represented by other attorneys in the locality and that both the third party client and the insurance carrier are fully advised of the circumstances as soon as possible in the proceeding. Where settlement is ultimately effectuated, the deputy commissioner or court having jurisdiction over the matter will also be fully advised of the circumstances before settlement is completed.

The inquiry, of course, is governed basically by the provisions of Canon 6 of the Canons of Professional Ethics. There it is said that it is unprofessional for an attorney to represent conflicting interests except by consent of all concerned which is given after a full disclosure of the facts.

Canon 6 would appear to authorize the representation contemplated in the inquiry. However, it is the opinion of this Committee that such representation should not be undertaken when the attorney is under a retainer of the insurance company. Even in the absence of a retainer, the attorney should not accept such representation if he has obtained either from the claimant or insurance company any information which might be used adversely to one of the parties. Provided the aforementioned conditions do not exist, and provided further that the requirements of Canon 6 are strictly adhered to, a majority of the Committee believes the attorney may properly accept the employment. Before doing so, however, the attorney should carefully consider whether his relationship with either of the parties will affect his ability to represent the claimant fully and fairly. In particular, consideration should be given to whether the expectation of future employment from the insurance carrier might limit or restrict the attorney's ability to represent the claimant in the pending matter. If there is any doubt in the premises whatsoever, the Committee believes that the representation should not be undertaken even if there is technical compliance with the provisions of Canon 6.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]