EDITORIAL: Lawyers, legislators alike should back passage of SB 180
Mark Twain once said, "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
We hope that was the sentiment the Oregon State Bar had in mind when they proposed Senate Bill 180. Sponsored by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill would require the insurer in a lawsuit to notify the claimant upon paying $5,000 or more to settle a third-party liability claim. In a nutshell, once a settlement agreement is reached, the insurer must inform both the attorney and the attorney's client.
Sounds like common sense, right?
Unfortunately, the present-day practice is that only the attorney is notified once the settlement agreement is reached. Under normal circumstances, once the funds are received, fees and expenses are accounted for, and then the client is paid. However, that doesn't always happen.
Just ask the victims of Portland attorney Lori Deveny, who, as reported in 2019 by the Portland Tribune, was indicted for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from her clients.
Senate Bill 180 would help ensure that this type of fraud wouldn't happen again. And although 15 other states have adopted similar consumer protection bills, there are rumblings of opposition to this bill here in Oregon.
Despite publicly supporting SB 180, the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association is jeopardizing the bill's passage by requesting amendments to the bill that would require a standardized form to be created.
As bills go, this one is a no-brainer. The Oregon State Bar is to be commended for proposing this consumer protection bill. Is it perfect? No, but few bills are. If passed, this bill would not impose any penalties against any party who violated this law.
Nonetheless, this bill not only deserves support, but passage. Attorneys should always be representing the best interests of their clients. They shouldn't need a form, a check-box, or even a letter, but clearly the actions of a few have necessitated this bill.
So, we say this, lawyers and legislators, passing Senate Bill 180 is your chance to gratify some people and astonish the rest by doing what is right.
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