This op-ed was originally published by Law360. Once considered a scholarly organization that was safely above the fray in broader policy disputes, the American Law Institute has become an advocacy group, […]
COVID-19 Legal Services Television Advertising
National and Select State Data
Trial lawyers and aggregators increasingly spend large sums of money on television, digital, and print advertising to recruit new clients for class actions targeting a variety of industries. As the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, entrepreneurial personal injury lawyers saw yet another opportunity to profit off of a national crisis.
Early on, a coalition of national law firms specializing in mass tort litigation formed a “Coronavirus Litigation Task Force” to identify targets and theories for litigation. Law firm websites sprung up, inviting people to blame their illness or family member’s death on someone rather than on the virus. Some websites provide a roadmap for suing for contracting COVID-19 at work. Others attempt to prompt lawsuits against nursing homes or others. One website, “Top Class Actions,” uses that familiar language often heard on billboards and late-night TV ads: “If you believe that your rights were violated by a company as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, you may be entitled to compensation.”
From March through December of 2020, 176,053 advertisements for legal services and/or soliciting legal claims mentioning COVID-19 or coronavirus aired in the United States at an estimated cost of $34.4 million. As of February 1, 2021, 8,200 lawsuits related to COVID-19 have been filed in the United States.
Thus far, COVID-19 exposure lawsuits have primarily targeted those that have experienced outbreaks, such as cruise ships (including those who did not become ill) and nursing homes. Lawsuits filed by employees of retailers, meat processing plants, supermarkets, and healthcare providers are also mounting. In addition, some plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed class actions alleging that the business’s operation – a fast-food restaurant, golf course, office building, or shipping facility – poses a risk of transmitting COVID-19 and is a public nuisance. As doors open and operations move back toward “normal,” more lawsuits are likely to target schools, daycare centers, offices, stores, factories, and others.
The following study by the American Tort Reform Association shows the trial bar’s intention to profit off of the pandemic. Plaintiffs’ lawyers have spent millions of dollars on COVID-19 related advertising across the country and will continue to do so. The data shows just how important it is for state legislatures to seek legislative solutions to support health care providers, businesses, and their employees who have been on the frontlines, responding to the pandemic. To date, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some level of COVID-19 liability protections.
Recent polling shows broad bipartisan support for elected officials to respond to pandemic-related issues – rather than trial lawyers filing lawsuits to address such concerns. Key findings show 74% of respondents said the government should support small businesses affected by COVID-19 with grants or loans, versus 6% who said lawyers should help small businesses pursue legal claims instead.
Despite the lack of public support for COVID-19 litigation, law firms advertised regardless. An analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that dozens of top law firms received millions in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Some firms spent those dollars to increase their advertising, including U.S. powerhouse personal injury law firm, Morgan & Morgan. This report shows Morgan & Morgan as the top sponsor for COVID-19 legal services TV ads from March through December, airing approximately 70,000 ads at a cost of $10.5 million.
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This op-ed was originally published by the Washington Examiner. The National Association of Attorneys General recently came under scrutiny for its funding sources. Outside of membership dues paid by state attorneys […]