Texas is among the top three states spending the most on trial lawyer advertising for plaintiff’s claims, according to a new study.
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA)’s Legal Services Advertising report found that Texas landed second in spending $603,100,515 million on 7,265,605 million local legal services advertisements from 2017 to 2021. First place was secured by Florida, where $885,774,912 was spent on 9,349,145 local legal services advertisements.
“They do it because it’s effective and it’s a way to build up the scope of claims,” said Sherman “Tiger” Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). “Just the overall aggregate numbers in and of themselves become a driving factor in the litigation.”
Nationwide, some $1.4 billion was spent from 2017 to 2021 on trial advertising in an attempt to solicit plaintiffs.
“The real challenge when you’re dealing with numbers like this is ferreting out who may really actually have a legitimate claim,” Joyce told The Dallas Express. “Just the sheer volume of the number of cases makes that untenable as opposed to someone who has truly experienced a negative impact.”
However, while a firm may advertise in Texas, that does not necessarily mean the case will be filed in Texas, according to Joyce.
“It just may be that firms are aggregating plaintiffs from different jurisdictions,” he said.
Although Texas saw the largest percentage increase in the number of advertisements aired during the 5-year period, Joyce said California is worse when it comes to tort reform. The study found that $594,418,668 million was spent in California on 5,307,533 local legal services advertisements from 2017 to 2021.
“California has been a perpetual Judicial Hellhole, and from our perspective, the whole purpose of these reports that we’ve been developing is to highlight the full scope of the mass tort’s game plan from the plaintiff’s bar,” he said. “What’s important is that Texas is a state that has a history of enacting strong civil justice reforms, which is what separates it when comparing it to California.”
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, a “Judicial Hellhole” is a jurisdiction in which it is believed that laws and court procedures are applied in an unfair and unbalanced manner.
“We think that the courts should be reserved for individuals who have claims that are in those communities,” Joyce said in an interview. “They should get first priority, but we hear that dockets are very full, that judges aren’t able to handle the volume of the cases that they have now, and when you superimpose these cases that are generated through advertising, then that’s a burden on the court.”
In 2021 alone, $94,681,542 was spent in Texas on 1,135,057 televised legal service advertisements, compared to $34,891,664 spent on 783,856 televised legal service advertisements in Louisiana, according to the study.
“The overall spending on and the quantity of legal services ads that air in Louisiana is interesting when you compare the state’s population with other states spending similar amounts of money on these ads,” Joyce added. “Louisiana is far less populated than California, which is the first most populated state followed by Texas, Florida, and New York.”
The study further determined that from 2017 to 2021, $231,416,902 was spent on local legal services advertising in the state of Louisiana.
“Those are interesting facts,” said Sen. Barrow Peacock, who is advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 383 to regulate legal advertisements in Louisiana.
“A lawyer can spend as much as they want which is our economy in this country. We cannot tell any business how much they can spend or can’t spend on advertising. That’s still going to be up to them to decide what they want to do. We’re just trying to make sure that you cannot be deceptive or deceiving or misleading people to think that they are going to get a reward without a disclaimer.”
On June 7, 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1189, which provides that a violation of deceptive advertising of legal services through television advertising may be enforced by the attorney general or district or county attorney as allowed by the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“It’s not a real surprise, but I don’t care about any of these laws that may be enforced by a political or administrative arm,” said Arlington-based attorney Warren Norred. “It’s just a political tool that the attorney general can use to go after his enemies. Republicans may like that because they control the attorney general today, but we may not control the attorney general tomorrow. So, give me a law that says I can enforce it as a member of the court.”
Norred, who does not promote his legal services on television, says advertising only works for certain types of litigation.
“There are people who have slipped and fallen who need an attorney, so TV advertising works for them,” he said. “There are also organizations that advertise for dads and divorce that try to show solidarity with the guys in their tv commercials. That’s national, but they have local affiliates, and they parse those cases out.”
Norred practices business law, intellectual property law, real estate, and bankruptcy law.
“What you’ll see is TV advertising for personal injury,” Norred told The Dallas Express. “If you can target the advertising, then you’re okay, but an attorney who advertises that way better have a big, big organization that can take lots of useless calls, especially for those who don’t have $200 to pay for a consultation because they’re not going to come in. So, you’re wasting money.”
Texas and Louisiana aren’t the only states trying to regulate plaintiff advertising. The Tennessee legislature recently enacted a new law prohibiting advertisements that display the logo of a government agency, use the word “recall” when a product hasn’t been recalled, or fail to disclose the advertisement is paid for legal services, according to ATRA data.
As previously reported, Senate Bill 150 is currently pending with the Kansas legislature. If approved, commercials that are determined to be false or misleading would be evaluated by the state’s attorney general for potential criminal charges.