The opponent describes itself as a non-profit educational and communications organization dedicated to improving public understanding of the property and casualty insurance business and to providing information about issues of relevance to the insurance business.
The complainants consist of State Public Interest Research Group and three (3) individuals. As alleged in their amended complaint, the Research Group is a not-for-profit membership corporation whose members include approximately 30,000 citizens in communities throughout the State besides the 150,000 student members. The Research Group, in furtherance of its broad concern for the public welfare, among other things, investigates and, as appropriate, addresses problems of common concern before the judicial, legislative and executive branches of our State Government. In particular, the Research Group conducts research and makes recommendations concerning the interests of the public and of the members of the Group in insurance-related issues and in the proposed changes in the civil justice system advocated by the insurance industry.
In their complaint, the complainants plead three (3) causes of action relating to multimedia advertising campaign, which refers to as the Lawsuit Crisis. The magazine and newspaper ads, and the television spots all assert that the quality of every American’s life is threatened by the existence of a Lawsuit Crisis; that is, that huge numbers of people are suing doctors, pharmaceutical companies, municipalities, etc., for personal injuriesdue to medical malpractice, negligence, etc., that the personal injury complainants are receiving huge jury awards, that, because of the awards, which are paid, in the final analysis by insurance companies, the insurance companies must raise their premiums for liability insurance, or deny coverage. The crisis, in turn, according to the ads, causes, among other things, obstetricians to cease delivering babies, pharmaceutical companies to discontinue manufacturing life-saving drugs (e.g., polio vaccine), and municipalities to close down playgrounds, firehouses, afterschool programs, etc.
The complainants allege that the statements made in the opponents’ advertisements distort the truth, and conceal material facts. The three causes of action plead that Lawsuit Crisis advertising campaign constitutes a deceptive act or practice within the meaning of the State General Business Law (GBL); constitutes false advertising within the meaning of General Business Law and by knowingly violating the statutes, seeks to corrupt the legal system by prejudicing prospective jurors against injured victims, thus preventing injured complainants from obtaining impartial justice.
The complainants specifically allege that they have been injured by the opponent’s Lawsuit Crisis advertising campaign because the ads have deceived the public, including but not limited to members of the Research Group and have injured the Group by impeding, impairing and defeating their efforts to educate and advise the public by forcing the Research Group to expend additional time and money to counteract the opponent’s deception and by damaging the Research Group’s recruitment of new members. With regard to the individual complainants, the amended complaint alleges that the opponent’s advertisements have deceived the jury pool, with the result that the eventual juries in the individual complainants’ respective personal injury actions will compensate their injuries inadequately or not at all. The complainants seek injunctive relief and money damages for each statutory violation.
When analyzed for the factors and the justification for limiting the protection of commercial speech to truthful communication, it becomes clear that the advertisements at issue are not primarily commercial speech within the meaning of existing case law. Most critically, the advertisements do not propose a commercial transaction since they are generally not directed to potential buyers of the advertiser’s product. The ads address issues of medical malpractice, product and municipal liability insurance which undoubtedly affect the prices readers ultimately pay for various services (medical care paid to health care providers, governmental services financed by taxes, etc.) but they do not, except incidentally reach the direct consumers of those insurance products.
The purpose of the advertisements is complex, but reflects at least three major aims. One is to influence the public, as potential voters, to encourage legislative action (such as the bills which have been pending in our legislature relating to caps on judgments, etc. which will decrease payments made by the insurance companies. A second purpose may well be to encourage readers and viewers, as potential jurors, to decrease plaintiffs’ recoveries by awarding lower verdicts. A third purpose is to generally improve the image of the insurance industry which is under criticism for many reasons unrelated to payments made as part of the litigation process.
All of the purposes clearly inure to the economic benefit of the insurance industry, but as the earlier discussion demonstrates, it is not economic motivation, but commercial content which deprives potentially untruthful speech of full First Amendment protection.
Because the primary purpose or purposes of the ads are not the proposal of a commercial transaction between the opponent (or its constituent insurance companies) and the viewers or readers of the ads, and because their primary purpose is to influence a variety of public debates (whether or not truthfully), the ads are not commercial speech and are thus subject to the full protection of the First Amendment. Any regulation based on their alleged falsity is constitutionally impermissible. Accordingly, the opponent’s motion to dismiss is granted.
Learning is a life-long process. In the field of medicine, it is crucial that they continue to find ways and discover better options for whatever current medical practice are being followed. Some people share their resources to improve the lives of others. Yet, there are some who could care less.
When you find yourself or your organization in the middle of a legal action, you may call the Kings County Injury Lawyers or the Kings County Personal Injury Attorneys from Stephen Bilkis and Associates. You may also consult with the Kings County Birth Injury Attorneys together with the Kings County Medical Malpractice Lawyers if you are being alleged of birth malpractice.