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Is There a Conflict of Interest When a CD Defense Attorney Becomes Coverage Counsel Post-Litigation?

September 1, 2011 — Chad Johnson of Higgins, Hopkins, McLain & Roswell, LLC

In Weitz Co., LLC v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado was asked to rule on a motion to disqualify counsel in an insurance coverage action. 11-CV-00694-REB-BNB, 2011 WL 2535040 (D. Colo. June 27, 2011). Motions to disqualify counsel are viewed with suspicion, as courts “must guard against the possibility that disqualification is sought to ‘secure a tactical advantage in the proceedings.’” Id. at *2 (citing Religious Technology Center v. F.A.C.T. Net, Inc., 945 F. Supp. 1470, 1473 (D. Colo. 1996).

Weitz Company, LLC (“Weitz”) is a general contractor and defendant in an underlying construction defect suit which had concluded before the action bringing rise to this order. In the underlying action, Weitz made third-party claims against subcontractors, including NPW Contracting (“NPW”). Weitz was listed as an additional insured under NPW’s policies with both Ohio Casualty Insurance Company and Mountain States Mutual Casualty Company (collectively “the Carriers”). The Carriers accepted Weitz’s tender of defense under a reservation of rights. However, neither insurance carrier actually contributed to Weitz’s defense costs in the underlying action. At the conclusion of the construction defect action, the parties unsuccessfully attempted to apportion the attorney’s fees and costs. Eventually, Weitz brought suit against the recalcitrant carriers. The Lottner firm, which had previously represented Weitz in the underlying construction defect action, continued to represent Weitz in this coverage action. 

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Reprinted courtesy of Higgins, Hopkins, McLain & Roswell, LLC. Mr. Johnson can be contacted at johnson@hhmrlaw.com

Is There a Conflict of Interest When a CD Defense Attorney Becomes Coverage Counsel Post-Litigation?