In most duty to defend policies, the insurance carrier has the right to control the defense, including the appointment of counsel. Insurance carriers typically designate panels of approved law firms to defend policyholders in duty to defend cases at negotiated rates. Landmark decisions in New York and California obligate insurance carriers to pay for independent counsel, selected by the insured, in situations in which an insurance carrier has a conflict of interest with its insured such that the trial strategy employed by insurance defense counsel could affect coverage. As explained below, these authorities – the Cumis case in California, and the Goldfarb case in New York, have begotten numerous progeny over the decades which have expanded the right of insureds to select independent counsel and, in California, spawned a statute which limits and modifies the right to counsel. Moreover, recent developments in New York have raised the question of whether an insurance carrier must affirmatively advise its insureds of their right to select independent, off-panel counsel in the event of a conflict of interest.
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