Representation of Estates of Pilot and Passenger
Opinion rules that a law firm may ethically represent the estates of both a husband and a wife in an action arising out of a private airplane crash in which both spouses were killed, where the law firm is convinced that the husband/pilot was not negligent in any way and that it would be frivolous for the wife's estate to assert a claim against the husband's estate.
Law firm has been contacted about representing the estates of a husband and wife who were killed in a private airplane crash. Law firm has carefully investigated the collision, and each member of the firm believes that the sole cause of the collision was a serious defect in the plane. Law firm has advised the executor for the wife that there is no evidence that the husband/pilot was negligent and that the law firm believes that making the husband's estate a party to the action brought by the wife's estate would be frivolous and a violation of Rule 11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Law firm has further advised the executor for the wife's estate that it is the usual and typical defense on the part of the defendant automatically to join the pilot as a third party. Law firm believes the facts clearly show there was no negligence on the husband's part. May law firm ethically represent the estate of the husband as well as that of the wife, even though there probably will be a joinder by the original defendant of the husband's estate?
Yes, provided that informed consent is obtained from both parties. See Rule 5.1(b). This opinion recognizes that law firm has made a judgment that the representation of neither client will be adversely affected, pursuant to Rule 5.1(b)(l). Law firm has a continuing obligation under Rule 5.1(c) to evaluate the potentially conflicting interests. If a conflict does develop, law firm could be required to withdraw from representation of both clients. Rule 5.1(d) and Rule 4(b).