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February 12, 2006

Insurers vs. defense counsel

Filed under: Law practice — CL @ 9:34 am

A new concern for defense lawyers:

Insurance Defense Malpractice Suit May Signal a Trend

An insurance defense bar beset by pressure to handle more cases at lower rates has a new reason to fear carriers as clients.

In a rare case of defense lawyer malpractice, a jury in Camden County awarded $362,000 Thursday to an insurance company that didn’t like the performance of its outside counsel at a personal injury trial.

The jury voted, 6-1, that a New Jersey partner in Philadelphia’s 165-lawyer Post & Schell caused Safestep Reinsurance Inc. a loss in the 1997 defense of a worker’s claim that he fell from a defective ladder.

Carriers rarely sue. In fact, it was the first time Safestep did in 2,500 cases over its 29-year history, says claims executive Paul Junius. . .

ABA committee chair Ben Hill of Tampa, Fla., told the ABA Journal in October that while insurance companies have traditionally stood by their lawyers, “Today, loyalty doesn’t exist like it did”. . .

It appears from the writeup that the defense attorney, in response to the insurer’s claim that he spent “woefully few hours preparing” for trial, countered with expert testimony to the effect that “short preparation time is a fact of life for all lawyers”. That does not seem like a strategy calculated to prevail in such a claim.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal – Law.com

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