One of the constant issues a carrier must face is whether, by issuing a ROR, it has granted the insured the right to choose its own counsel. In the case of Eckman v. Erie Ins., a Pennsylvania trial court was confronted with just this issue — http://www.law.com/jsp/pa/PubArticleFriendlyPA.jsp?id=1202470836794. In Eckman, the carrier assigned defense counsel to represent Eckman in a defamation lawsuit (under a ROR) while it investigated coverage. The Eckmans objected and argued that the ROR created a conflict of interest between themselves, assigned defense counsel and the carrier. They argued that the ROR entitled them to choose their own counsel at Erie’s expense. The court rejected this plea. It held that in the absence of an actual conflict of interest, the Eckmans were not entitled to choose their own attorney since the assigned defense counsel (under PA’s rules of professional responsibility) was ethically bound to exclusively advocate on behalf of the insured client.
If you have any questions about this post, please contact Bob Cosgrove at firstname.lastname@example.org.