Tennessee Bill Reining in Misleading Trial Lawyer Ads Heads to Governor

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March 26, 2019

By Harold Kim, Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Last week, the Tennessee House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HB 352 in a bipartisan vote and yesterday the Senate concurred, on a first of its kind bill that would ban deceptive drug and medical device ads that plaintiffs’ lawyers use to recruit clients. Gov. Bill Lee now has the chance to sign it into law. 

Television and the internet have become flooded with these deceptive ads. Many use warning signs and graphic video of ambulances while “Medical Alert” or “Recall Warning” flashes. To make them more real, some ads even use the logos of government agencies to try to lend credence to the lawsuits.

In 2017, trial lawyers spent nearly $1 billion on lawsuit advertising, with no sign of slowing down. The goal of these ads is to scare consumers—many times senior citizens—into filing lawsuits. But what also happens is they get scared into stopping taking their medicines.

Research from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform found that almost three-in-ten consumers currently taking prescription medications would definitely or probably stop taking their prescriptions after seeing a lawsuit ad about the drug they take.

The consequences can be deadly. Numbers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back this up. Through 2016, the FDA found 61 people that had stopped taking anti-coagulant medication after seeing these ads. Many of these individuals experienced health challenges as a result, and, unfortunately, six passed away.

That’s why the Tennessee House and Senate have taken important steps in not only reining in this troubling trend, but their actions may actually save lives.

HB 352 and SB 352 prohibit ads that display the logo of a government agency, use the word “recall” in relation to a product that has not been recalled, or fail to disclose that they are paid ads for legal services. 

No one should ever be put in harm’s way because of lawyers’ eagerness to sue. Gov. Lee should protect Tennesseans and sign HB 352 into law.