Ethics Committee Reviews ICBC Request for Proposals for Claims-Related Legal Services

June 16, 1999

On June 10, 1999 the Ethics Committee considered a number of ethical issues arising out of the recent Insurance Corporation of B.C. Request for Proposals for Claims-Related Legal Services under which ICBC proposes to contract with law firms.

The ICBC Request for Proposals states that lawyers retained to act as part of a legal team for ICBC must decline to act against the Corporation in bringing actions that include allegations of bad faith or claims for punitive, aggravated or exemplary damages. ICBC will also require that lawyers who act for ICBC in prosecuting actions alleging fraud must not act against the Corporation in defending any such actions. Save for the prosecution of actions alleging fraud, these restrictions do not apply to other lawyers in the firm who do not act for ICBC.

The Ethics Committee considered two questions: Is it proper for lawyers to act for clients adverse in interest to ICBC after agreeing to the restrictions required by ICBC? If it is proper for them to act, what advice must they give to the clients regarding these restrictions?

It is the Committee’s view that a lawyer who accepts the restrictions required by ICBC may properly act against ICBC for clients whose cases fall outside the restrictions. However, a lawyer acting in these circumstances must advise these clients of the lawyer’s relationship with ICBC, the restrictions on the lawyer when acting for parties adverse in interest to ICBC and the implications of those restrictions.

The profession was notified by fax on June 3 that, in responding to the ICBC Request for Proposals, lawyers must not identify other clients for whom they act without the consent of those clients. The Committee also stated that lawyers may give a client access to that client’s own files in electronic form, but must be vigilant to ensure that the client is not given access to the confidential information of other clients, or other information the client is not entitled to have.

If you have any questions about the Ethics Committee opinion, please contact Jack Olsen, Staff Lawyer - Ethics at (604) 443-5711 or