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The Supreme Court of Washington recently determined that a law firm with an insurer as a client may defend a policyholder of that insurer in an unrelated matter, without creating a conflict of interest. They do not even have to disclose to the insured that it regularly represents the insurer in coverage matters, but only because the insured (plaintiff) had not established any damages as a result of the failure to disclose. The case is Arden v. Forsberg & Umlauf, PS, 189 Wash. 2d 315, 402 P.3d 245(2017).

The plaintiffs, Roff and Bobbi Arden, had a homeowners insurance policy through Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford (Hartford). In late 2011, Roff suffered a posttraumatic stress disorder attack and shot and killed a six-month-old Labrador puppy owned by his neighbors, the Duffys. In June 2012 the Duffys sued the Ardens for willful conversion, malicious injury, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and gross negligence. In response to the suit, the Ardens sought liability coverage through Hartford, who initially denied defense and coverage based on an exclusion in the policy for intentional acts. The Ardens retained private counsel, Jon Cushman, to seek coverage from Hartford and assert counterclaims against the Duffys.

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