San diego navy federal credit union et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, V. Cumis insurance society, inc., Defendant and Appellant Civ. No. 31043 Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division One

Insurance Law > Claims & Contracts > Fiduciary Responsibilities

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Insurance Law > Claims & Contracts > Fiduciary Responsibilities

Insurance Law > Claims & Contracts > Reservation of Rights > Independent Counsel

Legal Ethics > Client Relations > Conflicts of Interest

[HN15] The canons of ethics impose upon lawyers hired by the insurer an obligation to explain to the insured and the insurer the full implications of joint representation in situations where the insurer has reserved its rights to deny coverage. If the insured does not give an informed consent to continued representation, counsel must cease to represent both. Moreover, in the absence of such consent, where there are divergent interests of the insured and the insurer brought about by the insurer's reservation of rights based on possible noncoverage under the insurance policy, the insurer must pay the reasonable cost for hiring independent counsel by the insured. The insurer may not compel the insured to surrender control of the litigation. Disregarding the common interests of both insured and insurer in finding total nonliability in the third party action, the remaining interests of the two diverge to such an extent as to create an actual, ethical conflict of interest warranting payment for the insureds' independent counsel.

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