News and Information
November 22, 2021

VSB Seeks Comment on Conflict of Interest in Representing Multiple Infant Claimants

The Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics (Committee) is seeking public comment on proposed advisory Legal Ethics Opinion 1894, Conflict of Interest: Representing Multiple Infant Claimants by “Next Friend.” 

This proposed opinion addresses the possible conflicts of interest when a lawyer represents multiple children concurrently against the same tortfeasor, and under what circumstances and by whom those conflicts can be waived.

The Committee concludes that the prospect of limited funds available for recovery, or the possibility of an aggregate settlement offer, does not necessarily prevent a single lawyer from representing multiple clients against a single tortfeasor. Provided the requirements of Rule 1.7 can be met, a lawyer can represent multiple clients seeking limited funds. If an aggregate or interdependent settlement is proposed, the lawyer must comply with Rule 1.8(g), including disclosure to all clients of how the settlement will be allocated among the clients.

Because the clients in this proposed opinion are minors, they are not able to provide the necessary informed consent themselves. Thus, the proposed opinion concludes that the next friends of the minors can give consent at the outset of the case. Any settlement or litigation would require a guardian ad litem be appointed to give consent to the multiple representation and the division of the settlement proceeds among the children.

Inspection and Comment

The complete proposed advisory opinion may be found here.

Any individual, business, or other entity may file or submit written comments in support of or in opposition to the proposed opinion with Karen A. Gould, Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar, not later than January 7, 2022. 

Comments may be submitted via email to publiccomment@vsb.org.

Updated: Nov 22, 2021