Local Bar Association Vocally Opposes Indiana Assembly Bill
One of the state’s largest bar associations is speaking out against a bill in the Indiana General Assembly that would prohibit attorneys’ ability to prospectively release themselves from malpractice liability.
The Lake County Bar Association announced its opposition to Senate Bill 84, authored by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, Thursday. Brown’s bill, which passed the full Senate in early February, holds that “Any provision in an agreement between an attorney and a client that purports to prospectively release the attorney from liability for legal malpractice is contrary to public policy, void, and unenforceable.”
Liz Brown says she authored SB 84 after a case involving legal malpractice went in favor of the law firm, Barnes and Thornburg, representing the plaintiff. Barnes and Thornburg had the client sign a release that capped the legal fees at $145,000 and contained a provision holding that the parties would “release and forever discharge B&T, and all predecessor and successor firms…from any and all claims, of any nature, known or unknown, which the (parties) now have, have had, or may later claim to have arising from or related to any aspect of B&T’s representation.”
The Lake County Bar Association provided two reasons for its opposition to SB 84. First, the bar association said the bill “runs afoul of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct,” specifically rules that require Indiana attorneys to put in writing any agreements that limit the scope of their representation. The bar association also says that SB 84 “limits the public’s access to attorneys in especially difficult situations for the person in the need of (a) lawyer.”
The bill has not been voted on yet and has not even been scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.