Waiver of Affirmative Defense
Opinion rules that an attorney should not waive the statute of limitations without the client's consent.
Can an attorney who is retained by an insurer to defend a tort claim grant an extension of the statute of limitations on behalf of both the insurer and the insured, or would an extension of time have to be obtained directly from the insured?
Unless the insured has by contract surrendered to the insurer the authority to waive affirmative defenses, no such waiver should be undertaken by the attorney without the consent of the insured. In a typical liability case, the lawyer employed by the insurer would represent both the insurer and the insured. The insured would be considered the lawyer's primary client. RPC 92. Generally speaking, a lawyer is obliged by Rule 7.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct to "seek the lawful objectives of his client through reasonably available means permitted by the law and these rules,..." It is further provided that "a lawyer does not violate this rule, however, by acceding to reasonable requests of opposing counsel which do not prejudice the rights of his client,..." Because the waiver of an affirmative defense, such as the statute of limitations, would be prejudicial to the rights of the client, the insured, it would be necessary for the insured to consent to a waiver.