93 N.J.L.J. 789
November 12, 1970
Conflict of Interest
Representing Driver and
This inquiry asks the propriety of representing both driver
and passenger (who is also the owner of the vehicle) against the
driver-owner of another vehicle. The driver and passenger-owner
have agreed that they do not intend to sue one another for the
damages suffered in the collision; and they will sign appropriate
We hold that such proposed representation is improper notwithstanding consent. In our Opinion 156, 92 N.J.L.J. 481 (1969), we held that it was improper for an attorney to represent two or more parties to litigation where all such parties so joined and the attorney's opinion as to whether or not valid claims could be asserted might be in error. Where a passenger is injured, the passenger (and as owner too) has a possible claim against the driver. The facts at the trial may bring this out even though the parties believe to the contrary at the interview. In our Opinion 156, supra, we interpreted the directive of the Supreme Court, 91 N.J.L.J. 81 (1968), prohibiting such multiple representation; and we made it clear that the rule cannot be based upon the attorney's judgment of facts. Public policy precludes an exception by waiver and consent. Should conflict develop, the attorney who undertakes to act for several plaintiffs must retire from all representations with consequent delay, interruption of proceedings and expense.
We hold that consent and waiver do not permit an attorney to represent two or more parties who may have potential claims against one another arising out of the same transaction.