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                                         117 N.J.L.J. 438
                                        April 3, 1986


Appointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey


Attorney-Client Confidentiality -
Disclosure of Insurance Fraud

    This inquiry once again seeks an opinion relating to the powerful policy requiring an attorney scrupulously to guard the confidences and secrets of his client as presently set forth in RPC 1.6 (formerly DR 4-101).
    RPC 1.6(b) and (c) recognize, as did our prior opinions, that there are limited situations which, under subsection (b), require a lawyer to reveal such information and other situations in which, under subsection (c), the lawyer is authorized to reveal such information to the proper authorities.
    The facts of the instant inquiry fall within the exception to the general rule authorizing the inquirer to make the disclosure. [RPC 1.6(c)].
    In this inquiry, an attorney was separately retained by both the Driver and a purported Passenger of a motor vehicle involved in an accident - to recover damages for injuries sustained therein. During the course of such representation, the attorney processed payments of medical bills of both driver and passenger by forwarding these bills to Driver's PIP insurance carrier. He also completed PIP applications for both Driver and Passenger. Driver's carrier, as a consequence, paid roughly $4,000 on account of passenger's injuries.

    Subsequently, during an interview to explore the facts underlying the latent or actual conflict between the attorney's representation of both Driver and Passenger, the Driver revealed to the attorney that Passenger had not been a passenger in Driver's vehicle at the time of the accident but that the Passenger's injuries for which the attorney had obtained payment had been caused in a prior accident not involving Driver. Driver further stated that Driver had misrepresented to Driver's PIP carrier that Passenger had been a passenger in Driver's motor vehicle at the time of the accident. The truth of the Driver's statement was further confirmed to the attorney by the fact that Driver and Pas senger had given the attorney "completely different" versions of the occurrence in question in separate interviews by the attorney.
    The attorney has since advised Passenger that the attorney may no longer represent Passenger and will advise Driver to the same effect. These actions are entirely appropriate.
    The circumstances of this inquiry, therefore, fall within the ambit of RPC 1.6(c)(1).
    A lawyer may reveal such information [a client's confidences and secrets] to the extent that the lawyer reasonably believes necessary; (i) to rectify the consequences of the clients criminal, illegal, or fraudulent act in the furtherance of which the lawyer's services have been used...

    Clearly, the attorney's services have been used to defraud Driver's PIP Carrier. Disclosure is warranted under the rule.
    An appropriate forum for such disclosure would be before the assignment judge of the county in which the actions were, or are to be commenced. It should be done upon notice to inquirer's adversary, the attorney for the Driver's PIP carrier and the former clients, or their new attorneys if they have been retained.

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