July 19th, 2011

Tort “Reform” Claims more Victims

Remember the Metrolink train crash from 2008 out in Southern California? It claimed the lives of 24 innocents people and injured over 100 more because a train engineer was texting while driving and missed a signal.

But Congress granted immunity for all claims over $200 million, forcing a local judge to make a Sophie’s Choice among victims, while the negligent corporation went skipping merrily away after paying the cap.

Andrew Cohen has the heartbreaking story at The Atlantic: The Real Victims of ‘Tort Reform’


June 30th, 2009

Metro Train Accident and Client Solicitation

In the wake of Continental Flight 3407 crashing near Buffalo, I tracked how a number of firms from around the nation were using Google ads to hustle clients (see here, here, here, and here). The point was to discuss New York’s attorney anti-solicitation rules and, to see if they were effective, compare them to local attorney advertising responses in two other disasters. The other disasters were the Staten Island Ferry crash in 2003 and the Metrolink train crash in Southern California in 2008.

So now we can add another disaster to the mix: The Washington City Paper reports that:
Lawyers Use Web Site, Google Ads to Find Metro Crash Victims (via Overlawyered). An individual named Jared Reagan started a website (metrotrainaccident.com) and then started hustling lawyers to advertise on it. There is no indication that Reagan is even an attorney.

So what does this mean? For those lawyers that retain Reagan to act as their agent to solicit via web sites, it means that those lawyers have outsourced their ethics to him. Let’s be clear about this equation:

outsourcing marketing = outsourcing ethics

Notably, the site itself does not list any New York lawyers, either because he hasn’t reached us with his own solicitations for his site yet, or because New York attorneys, under stricter ethics rules than those in other states, have learned to become wary of outsourcing their marketing such people. See: New York’s Anti-Solicitation Rule Allows For Ethics Laundering and Must Be Modified.

On a final note, New York’s ethics rules are currently being challenged in court. Oral argument was heard before the Second Circuit in January. Judge Sonia Sotomayor was on the panel. A decision is pending.

Links to this post:

Disbar the Connecticut 5
No, not really. I don’t care whether they get disbarred or let off. A lawyer can’t pay a nonlawyer for a referral. This is an uncontroversial proposition. In Connecticut, paying a nonlawyer for a referral can even be a felony.  

posted by Mark Bennett @ November 06, 2009 8:14 PM

adam winter and thomas dicicco: lying asshats of the day
today’s asshats of the day are adam winter and thomas a. dicicco, jr. of “web guardian” (i don’t know if it’s this webguardian, but it’s probably just a boiler room in boca raton). the first time adam called he gave his full name (”adam  

posted by Mark Bennett @ July 10, 2009 3:48 PM

dc metro crash client-chasing
yes, the online ads are already up. washington’s city paper tracks down one california-based law firm marketer: “this is the only marketing i do — it’s the highest cost per click online. what else can you do, a young guy like me?
posted by Walter Olson @ June 30, 2009 12:14 AM


February 26th, 2009

Do Attorney Anti-Solicitation Rules Work? (A Brief Analysis of Three Disasters) – Updated

The ads are gone. All of them. In the wake of the crash of Continental 3407 near Buffalo I tracked seven different law firms using Google Adwords to advertise for victims, and every ad has now disappeared. (Search terms used: “Continental 3407” and “Buffalo Plane Crash.”)

(Update at 5:18 pm on 2/26, a search for “Continental 3407” once again brings up an ad by the Washington DC firm of Clapp, Desjardins & Ely. I wrote about them last week in DC Firm Jumps Into Cyber-Solicitation Fray, Chasing Buffalo Air Crash Clients.)

So here is a quick and dirty analysis as to whether or not attorney anti-solicitation rules were the reason, based on three recent disasters.

First: On October 15, 2003 the Staten Island Ferry crashed killing 11 people and injuring 71. In the following days the Staten Island Advance was flooded with lawyer ads. This was the impetus for New York’s 30-day anti-solicitation rule, which went into effect at the beginning of 2007. (I tried to get back issues to actually count the ads, but they were not available.)

Second: On September 28, 2008, a Metrolink train crashed in Chatsworth, CA, near Los Angeles, that killed 25 and injured over 100 more. Kevin O’Keefe counted at least 25 sponsored ads by attorneys when he ran a Google search for “Los Angeles Train Accident Attorney.” California does not have an attorney anti-solicitation rule.

Third: The crash near Buffalo had only seven ads, and most (as detailed in the links below) were from out of state.

While this isn’t the most scientific of experiments, the sharp contrast leaves little doubt that ethics rules are effective in putting a sharp brake on attorney solicitation (or at least this public type of solicitation). Bearing in mind that there are about a million lawyers in the nation and about 75,000 in New York, the restraint shown has been extraordinary. Only a very few people attempted it, and they quickly withdrew.

Whether the rules survive First Amendment challenge due to the difficulty defining solicitation given the myriad ways it can be done under cover of writing about an incident on a website or blog, as I’ve previously discussed, is another story.

These rules exist in eight states (as of July, 2007) plus a federal rule specific to aviation disasters. The only judge to review the rules so far, Judge Frederick Scullin, Jr. sitting in the Northern District of New York in Alexander v. Cahill, wrote in a footnote about the reason for the rules:

Without question there has been a proliferation of tasteless, and at times obnoxious, methods of attorney advertising in recent years. New technology and an increase in the types of media available for advertising have exacerbated this problem and made it more ubiquitous. As a result, among other things, the public perception of the legal profession has been greatly diminished.

That decision has been appealed and was recently argued in the Second Circuit.

Prior posts on this subject:

Photo credit: Jordan Husney (via Flickr)

Links to this post:

march 5 roundup
uninjured patients of california, unite to demand the money you have coming to you! [russell jackson via pol]; lawyer’s nastygram to blogger patterico: how dare you talk to my witnesses as part of your research on my case?
posted by Walter Olson @ March 05, 2009 9:35 AM


September 22nd, 2008

"Metrolink Train Attoneys" Appear (And What If It Happened in New York?)

The Los Angeles Metrolink train accident that killed 25 people and injured over 100 others seems to have brought out the worst in a few attorneys, with ads and website popping up to advertise for victims. As reported by Kevin O’Keefe, even YouTube ads have been popping up.

It was exactly this type of disaster in New York that led to new ethics rules. In 2003, the Staten Island Ferry crashed, killing 10 people. And while victims were still being pulled from the wreckage, some lawyers had already contacted the Staten Island Advance in order to place ads for the next day’s papers. Thus was born New York’s new attorney advertising rules (some of which are being constitutionally challenged).

Regardless of whether any one particular rule is constitutional or not, one thing is clear: That those lawyers that leap after cases in such a fashion do a great disservice to the profession. The few who do this make the rest look bad.

Those seeking counsel for such an incident — indeed for any kind of incident — should avoid such people at all costs. They have merely shown that they have advertising moxie to get noticed, and bad taste in what they have done.