CA Lawmaker Kills Bill To Punish Lying Lawyers After Major Donor Opposes It, Group Says
By: John O’Brien
A bill that punishes attorneys who mislead prospective clients passed California’s Assembly with no opposition, but the state Senate won’t even consider it. So, what happened?
On July 3, the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to discuss AB3217, which targets advertisements by law firms that want to attract clients by claiming certain prescription drugs are dangerous or medical devices are defective.
But it was taken off of the agenda by committee chair Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat who counts a consumer attorneys group that opposed the bill as one of her major donors.
“(W)e were directly told by her office that she did not support the bill (and) that her opposition made it next to impossible to secure the votes for passage…” said Civil Justice Association of California president John Doherty, whose group was pushing the bill.
“(W)e intended on moving the bill forward until she indicated her opposition.”
In May, the Assembly approved the bill, which was sponsored by Assemblymember Marc Berman, 71-0. It specifies that an advertisement may be considered materially misleading if it understates the benefits of Federal Drug Administration-approved medications or medical devices, or overstates the risks.
Further, a commercial can be considered misleading if a material fact is omitted by the law firm.
Supporters of the bill were driven by the belief that legal advertising is out of control, with lawyers spending $1 billion a year promoting their services, and by 2016 figures from the federal Food and Drug Administration that showed 61 patients stopped using the blood-thinners Xarelto or Pradaxa after seeing commercials.
Of that group, six died – three from strokes, one from cardiac arrest, one from a pulmonary embolism and one from an unreported cause.
After the bill overwhelmingly passed the Assembly, the Consumer Attorneys of California submitted its opposition. FDA approval of a drug doesn’t always mean it is safe, the group argued.