“There’s nothing more thrilling than nailing an insurance company” . . .

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. . . is a line from John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker.”  We at The Risk Tip love non-movie-villian insurance companies, so this is not a view we could possibly endorse in real life. 

But, we were reminded of the quote when we read that well known, high quality law firm has been sued for $500,000 by a former client alleging that the firm failed to nail (or at least mail) the client’s own insurance company.  Specifically, the malpractice claim arises out of an underlying case in which the firm’s client was sued by a competitor for defamation, illegal competition, and contractual interference.  The firm appears to have defended the case well enough, but it allegedly failed to advise the client to check for insurance coverage or notify its insurers.  The client ultimately did notify its insurers mid-way through the litigation, and the insurers agreed to pay some defense costs, but not those of the firm prior to the notice.  The client then sued their lawyers for the unreimbursed costs.

Who knows how the case will come out, but the firm would be well served if it had addressed the insurance issues in its engagement letter.  For example, the firm might have expressly carved out insurance coverage advice from the scope of its representation.  Alternatively, the firm would be in a good position if it had in its form of engagement agreement a statement providing:

You should carefully check for any insurance policies that might relate to the work we do for you, and notify your insurers promptly to protect your rights. Unless you tell us about these policies and provide us with copies, we cannot be responsible for advising you about the existence or applicability of insurance coverage.

If it did so, the malpractice case should lack the twists and turns of a Grisham novel.

Returning to John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker” (or is it “John Grisham’s The Rainmaker”?), the film earned mixed, some less than admirable, reviews.  Further, one could hold an ethics seminar on the more egregious violations of the rules of professional conduct by many of the attorneys in the movie.  That said, there’s some quality scenery chewing by Mickey Rourke and Jon Voight, and we would watch the late, great Roy Scheider in anything (well, most anything).  Lastly, for those who are wondering what Mr. Grisham’s next novel may bring, you might enjoy this short story from a recent collection by B.J. Novak.