The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 65-41

June 21, 1965
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.


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.