Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information
512.463.1441 or click for email
Friday, April 16, 2010
COURT DECIDES AGAINST MANDATORY PROFESSIONAL-LIABILITY INSURANCE DISCLOSURE
The Supreme Court of Texas has decided against a proposal that would have required attorneys in the state to disclose whether they have professional-liability insurance.
In a letter to State Bar President Roland Johnson dated Wednesday, Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson told Johnson the Court would not require disclosure. “As with any complex issue, good arguments were presented in favor of and against mandatory liability insurance public disclosure,” Jefferson wrote.
“Of course, we should be concerned if clients are unable to recoup sums occasioned by lawyer malpractice, or if the public would view the non-existence of such insurance a critical factor in the decision to retain a lawyer. But, as your process demonstrated, there is little evidence of either circumstance.”
Justice Phil Johnson, the Court’s liaison to the State Bar, noted that this decision does not affect a potential client’s ability to ask for such information from an attorney. “Clients and potential clients have always been entitled to request information on whether an attorney has professional-liability insurance,” Johnson said. “The Court’s decision to not mandate public disclosure does not impact voluntary disclosure of such information.”
The Bar appointed a task force to consider mandatory-insurance disclosure in 2007 after the Court asked it to consider the issue. When the task force narrowly recommended against the Court’s adoption of a disclosure rule, the Court asked the Bar’s board of directors for its recommendation. That led to seven public hearings around the state and an outreach effort that included public-opinion polls on the issue.
The Bar board, in a 39-1 vote, recommended that attorneys not be required to disclose publicly whether they have professional-liability insurance.