Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1479

 Conflict of Interest: Representing Plaintiff Against Tortfeasor
Insured by a Carrier with whom Attorney has a Customer

You have presented a hypothetical situation in which an attorney
wishes to represent a personal injury client in a negligence
action.  You indicate that the alleged tortfeasor is insured by
an insurance carrier with whom the attorney has a customer
relationship in that the carrier provides the attorney with
professional liability, health insurance disability, and
automobile insurance coverage.

You have asked the committee to opine whether, under the facts of
the inquiry, the attorney's concern for the solvency of the
carrier and the carrier's continued ability to protect the
attorney's personal and business interests, presents an improper
conflict of interest.

The appropriate and controlling Disciplinary Rule related to your
inquiry is DR 5-101(A), which states that a lawyer shall not
accept employment if the exercise of his professional judgment on
behalf of his client may be affected by his own financial,
business, property, or personal interests, except with the
consent of his client after full and adequate disclosure under
the circumstances.

The committee is of the view that the attorney's customer
relationship with the insurance carrier constitutes a personal
interest affecting representation, as articulated under DR
5-101(A).  However, the committee recognizes that the impact of
such personal interests may be measured along a continuum, with
the least significant interests representing only a de minimisconflict.  Under the facts you have presented, the committee
opines that since the attorney's concern for the carrier's
solvency and its ability to protect the attorney's personal and
business interests represents only a minimal conflict under DR
5-101(A), there would be no impropriety in the attorney's
representation of the personal injury client when the tortfeasor
is insured by the same insurance carrier, provided that the
requisite disclosure is made and consent received from the
personal injury client.  See LEO l465.

Committee Opinion
August 24, 1992