Louisiana Legislature Looks to Curb Lawsuit Advertising

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Louisiana lawyers spend millions soliciting their services and alarming citizens.

Today, the Louisiana Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 395, sponsored by Senator Heather Cloud. The bill would prohibit misleading and deceptive advertisements for professional services, including legal services advertisements. 

A study by the American Tort Reform Association found that in the second half of 2018, nearly one-quarter-million ads for legal services aired across in New Orleans, Shreveport and Baton Rouge – with a total media buy of $15.6 million. The report analyzes spending and frequency of legal services ads in three major Louisiana media markets.

“I’m encouraged that Senator Cloud has introduced this piece of legislation and I urge her Senate colleagues to move this forward,” Tiger Joyce, President of the American Tort Reform Association said. “ATRA’s report further highlights the need for legislation to protect the public from false and misleading advertisements,” Tiger Joyce, President of the American Tort Reform Association said.

A Public Opinion Strategies survey found that three-quarters of Americans saw ads by law firms about pharmaceutical lawsuits in 2016. Further, the survey states that one-in-four people who saw one of these ads concerning a medicine they take, say they would immediately stop taking the medicine without consulting their doctor.

“Misleading advertisements drum up fear in an attempt to gain clients, but there are serious repercussions and in the worst scenarios, the cost can be human life,” Joyce said.

A recent FDA study shows the real-life consequences of these ads. The report found 66 reports of adverse events following patients discontinuing their blood thinner medication (Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis or Savaysa) after viewing a lawyer advertisement.

The median patient age was 70 and 98% stopped medication use without consulting with their doctor. Thirty-three patients experienced a stroke, 24 experienced another serious injury, and seven people died.

Dr. Ilana Kutinsky, doctor for one of the deceased, stated before Congress: “Patients are dying because they are afraid to take the medications prescribed for them due to the fear brought on by these negative and one-sided campaigns.”

These ads telling consumers, “Don’t settle for quick cash – call now to get what you’re entitled to,” frequent television screens across the country. 

“Lawsuit advertisements perpetuate the cycle of litigation and make Louisiana a less attractive place for businesses to move or grow,” Joyce said. “These companies see a very litigious area and have to factor in the risks associated with doing business in a state like Louisiana.”

Louisiana residents are 60 percent more likely to file lawsuits following auto accidents than claimants in the rest of the nation. According to the Insurance Research Council, Louisiana has the most expensive insurance rates in the nation, and claimants in the state report bodily injury from auto accidents at double the national rate.

The problem of lawyer advertising is pervasive – Louisiana’s top media market, New Orleans, saw more than 120,000 trial lawyer advertisements at a cost of nearly $7 million in the last half of 2018. On average, NOLA area TV viewers saw 19 legal services ads for every local medical or dental insurance ad.

During the six-month period that included an election season, Shreveport area viewers saw 19 legal services ads for every state or local campaign ad. The lawyers spent $2.5 million on nearly 50,000 advertisements between July and December of 2018. In Baton Rouge, which is half the size of the New Orleans market, trial lawyer advertisers spent nearly as much as they did in the largest market – approximately $6.1 million for more than 80,000 ads. That means trial lawyer ads ran eight times as often as fast foods ads in Baton Rouge.

The full report on trial lawyer advertising trends in Louisiana is available at ATRA.org.

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