A group of attorneys looking exasperated over frivolous lawsuits being marketed on social media.

Frivolous Lawsuits: Marketing on Social Media is Legal, But Ethical?

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At what point does advertising for plaintiffs fail to be a pursuit of justice and instead become a PR stunt?

California is one of the most litigious states in our country. This is due to our abundance of pro-plaintiff laws. Getting enough clients to join a firm’s class-action lawsuit is vital to pursuing justice for all affected, as well as getting the attention of the offending entity needed for them to take responsibility. Notoriety for the law firm in question is an additional bonus. However, at what point does advertising for plaintiffs fail to be a pursuit of justice and instead become a PR stunt?

Frivolous Lawsuits Abound

It’s not difficult to recall recent frivolous lawsuits; in November 2016 a class-action lawsuit was filed against burrito chain Chipotle. The suit alleged that the caloric information featured on the menu didn’t clearly indicate that the calorie count next to meat items reflects only the meat itself, not the total calories in a burrito. This suit covers all plaintiffs who ate at Chipotle even once in the last four years if allowed to continue. We’ve seen similar lawsuits raised over too much ice present in Starbucks iced drinks, as well as too much foam. Surprisingly, the ice lawsuit was thrown out and the foam suit was allowed to continue.

Social Media Marketing for Plaintiffs

A new marketing niche is flourishing in California with the rising number of class-action lawsuits. These marketing firms exist solely to attract plaintiffs for possible class-action lawsuits through social media. More and more are popping up and finding clients among law firms looking for headline-making cases. Their campaigns are referred to as “tort campaigns.”

One advertising company, Open Jar Concepts, launched a full tort division called The Sentinel Group. The Sentinel Group executes campaigns on behalf of law firms drumming up public interest in class-action issues. “Our team has extensive experience developing, executing and delivering nearly every type of mass tort lead to hit the air over the last decade,” the company said.

What’s the Rub?

Advertising of this nature raises ethical questions. Is it morally right to seek out unperturbed plaintiffs for a class-action suit against a popular company? Ethically responsible to go after businesses simply because one consumer misinterprets a menu item? It is fair to give common consumers the hope of walking away with a fortune from a frivolous lawsuit that may never see the light of day? These questions may result in tighter legislation in the coming years, though maybe not. What is most certain, however, is that advertising companies will continue to profit.

In our next post, we’ll explore how the rise of frivolous class-action lawsuits has impacted the terms of service of several major companies. For more information on California laws, or if you need assistance regarding a personal injury, contact Hales & Associates, a Professional Law Corporation at (951) 489-3320 today.

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