84-F-65 - Representation adverse to former client

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 84-F-65


Inquiry is made concerning the propriety of representing several insureds in a class action against an insurance company in a claim for policy benefits after having ten years previously represented the parent insurance company in defense of a similar claim.

Formal Ethics Opinion 81-F-9, quoting Autry v. State, 430 SW 2d 808, stated:

It has long been firmly established, both in the Canons of Professional Ethics and by judicial opinions, that attorneys cannot represent conflicting interests or undertake to discharge inconsistent duties. When an attorney has once been engaged and receives the confidences of his client, he cannot enter the services of those whose interests are adverse to that of his client or former client. The rule is a rigid one and it is well that it is so.

Formal Ethics Opinion 81-F-9 further held:

The duty or loyalty by an attorney to his client with respect to matters as to which the attorney acted as counsel survive the formal conclusion of the attorney-client relationship to the extent that, having represented a party to a transaction, the attorney may not thereafter represent any other party in an action against his former client arising out of or closely related to the transaction.

The continuing ethical responsibilities of an attorney to a former client are:

(i) To continue to preserve the confidences and secrets of the former client;
(ii) To abstain from attacking the resolution of any legal matter accomplished on behalf of the former client; and
(iii) To abstain from representing another party in an action involving the former corporate client, successor or receiver arising out of or closely related to the previous legal matters handled by the attorney.

It is improper to represent several insureds in a class action against an insurance company in a claim for policy benefits after having ten years previously represented the parent insurance company in defense of a similar claim.

This 18th day of January, 1984.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

O. B. Hofstetter, Jr.
F. Evans Harvill
William R. Willis

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD