Informal Opinion Number: 940184

Rules: 1.5(d);1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship

Reference Note: Effective July 1, 2016, subdivision 4-1.15(f) of Rule 4 was repealed and a new subdivision 4-1.15(f) adopted in lieu thereof. This opinion is based on Rule 4-1.15 in effect prior to that date.

Reference Note:  Rule 4-1.15 was amended, effective July 1, 2013.  This opinion is based on the rule in effect prior to that date.  Please see the July 1, 2013 version of Rule 4-1.15(e).

QUESTION: Attorney proposes to pay the treating physician out of the settlement. This physician would have been an expert witness if the case had gone to trial. The physician accepted the patient on Attorney´s recommendation. A judgment has been entered in small claims court against the client/patient and the lawyer´s trust account is about to be garnished. The client has not consented to payment to the physician. ANSWER: Under Rules 4-1.5(d) and 4-1.15(a)-(c), Attorney may only pay the treating physician out of settlement funds if the client consents. If the client does not consent and the physician continues to assert a claim, Attorney must interplead the funds. Attorney must not allow funds to be removed from the trust account without the consent of the client unless it is pursuant to a court order in a matter in which the client´s interests were represented or in which the client chose not to be represented.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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