To begin with, arguing contracts, or fraud in the inducement with a FindLaw attorney marketing, or “ads” supervisor is not what I signed up for. For example, when someone EXPRESSLY promises me to do something in order to get the sale, I EXPECT it to get done. Simple.
Conversely, it appears as if the entire staff at FindLaw thinks that no duty of good faith and fair dealings exists when the time comes to honor their promises. Why is that?
It appears FL employees are trained to rely on their so-called “Master Services Agreement” to shield them from honoring promises and inducements you relied upon in making your decision to contract.
I will explain more as we progress.
But first I will prove that even FindLaw’s own corporate “trust” policies militate in favor of them keeping their EXPRESS and EASY to HONOR promises to their customers.
Can a Written Disclaimer VOID a Promise Relied Upon?
Not usually. Of special interest here, even under contract law, disclaimer language in a Master Services agreement cannot void FindLaw’s (or anyone’s) written, verbal or oral promises. This is called LAW SCHOOL 101.
So imagine dealing with a non-attorney salesperson over at FindLaw after you saw the facts showed you had been lied to and deceived by ad reps. Rather than FindLaw apologize, you hear them basically say nothing.
Visualize yourself having been instructed by a FindLaw supervisor that her “Master Services Agreement” shields her from honoring her agent’s solemn EXPRESS promises. And then think about that for a minute.
FindLaw’s CEO agrees with me that not keeping promises is unfair and that it fosters distrust. Based upon his statements to the public and stockholders, you’d think FindLaw ads would honor any reasonable commitment they made their clients as a matter of public TRUST.
“can you please switch out my website link on a product I pay for? It is no longer accurate, as the web address has changed.”
“FindLaw hosts and manages my Firmsite’s SSL certificate, yet you disabled my https Certification and the site is now insecure. My site has now lost ranking because Google tells people who land on it that it is NOT A SECURE site. When are you going to fix it?”
What if your rep said?:
Yes, no problem, Mike, we’ll fix it when you renew. (What if it was not fixed?)
What if your rep and his supervisor swore up and down in emails that your web URL in Example o1 was fixed?
But it wasn’t fixed, so you complained? Now what?
What if the new supervisor assigned to your account says: “No, we can’t make your listing accurate anymore because this was a ‘side deal.'”
What if you went over the supervisor’s head to her boss? What if he simply ignored you and relied upon her position that FL doesn’t have to do sh*t? What if he failed to return your calls or respond to your emails?
Remember, you were promised orally, by acts in furtherance, and in emails! Afterward, your rep and the supervisor told you it had been fixed.
Now imagine having your FL ads Firm name being changed from “Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC, ” to “Mike Ehline.” Then imagine the FL supervisor blame you and tell you that you have to fill out some special form, when prior to renewing your name was accurate.
So you are now paying someone thousands of dollars a month to destroy your brand, making your information inaccurate.
Now you are forced to blog about it, so others can see what you are dealing with. Just imagine, your URL is still wrong on your listing, your firm name was changed without your permission. Your rep’s supervisor treats you with contempt.
And to top it off, she makes snide, patronizing comments. So basically, she just declared war on you. And her boss is so spineless he won’t even reply to calls or emails.
So What if FindLaw Made Your Accurate Data Inaccurate and Blamed it on You?
Discussed above, not only did FindLaw not fix the inaccurate URL or update my SSL cert, they actually made my data inaccurate and tried to blame me!
I paid to add a Long Beach truck accident ad to my profile. And true to form, FindLaw changed my once accurate Long Beach listing from our firm name “Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC,” to my short FindLaw account billing name, “Mike Ehline.”
FindLaw implied this is my fault. “Read the ‘Master Services Agreement.'” Plus, its agents refuse to CHANGE IT BACK TO WHAT IT WAS BEFORE renewing. And this is something you have always been able to do before complaining.
Would you say these people have zero integrity? Could you trust anyone like that? Would you want to speak to a higher-up?
Here’s what Jim Smith, CEO of FindLaw, Says about trust:
“Our business depends on transparency and our determination to do the right thing. Our customers count on the accuracy of our information, the reliability of our systems, and the:
“integrity with which we operate.”
“Trust is our currency.” [Emphasis.]
One thing I do agree on is that FindLaw is transparent and determined not to honor the many promises it has made me over the years. And I think this shows an utter lack of integrity and contempt.
Over the years, I have spent hundreds of hours trying to defend my business and brand from FindLaw representative edits. I have to educate each new account rep as to my account history.
They make their usual promises. And when I complain, they turn it over to someone less intelligent than them. These are usually people who are hostile and argumentative. I believe reps make false promises because their supervisors are trained to tell clients the Master Services Agreement means any promise they don’t keep is YOUR FAULT.
For years, almost without fail, a new FL hire will try to alter or delete my accurate information, making it inaccurate. Also, when confronted, the reps would gaslight me. So I have to go all the way to the president, spend thousands of dollars of my attorney time to keep FL from changing the deal.
Why Not Just Cancel and Move On?
So why not just cancel and leave FindLaw? Why do you ask? Because the products are amazing. But alas, I can see how any educated, self-motivated, or ambitious employees would potentially be a threat to a supervisor there.
My experience with most of their supervisors has demonstrated that they know very little about BUSINESS, let alone their products, or the internet. Also, most of the leadership I have dealt with have zero commitment to the client’s needs.
Based upon my conversations with my MANY MANY MANY past sales reps, this appears to be the sole reason for the high turnover rate. BAD LEADERSHIP. Sadly, it appears that FindLaw promotes based upon other factors than consumer happiness, heavy product and industry knowledge.
If I made a FindLaw Comedy Play, here would be a famous line from the Supervisor character:
“I don’t care what deal you have in place now, or what promises the last ten sales reps and corporate officers made you! Our Master Services Agreement Insulates Us From Honoring them.” – A scene from the future FindLaw Comedy Play
We hear and have formed the same opinions. We think that FindLaw attorney advertising has excellent products. But we believe they have equally horrific leadership. Last, I am of the strong belief that many of its reps lack accountability when dealing with their attorney clients.
Their reputation with many of our friends who have also challenged them is the same as ours. It seems like anything they do wrong immediately gets blamed on the client. But more often than not, it gets nonchalantly breezed over.
Next, it seems everyone in their corporate chain of command toes the line against the complaining customer.
Do FindLaw Marketing Services Reps Also Double as Defense Attorneys for FindLaw?
I am not sure, but it appears that FindLaw hires a lot of law school grads who like to play lawyer and argue the law with people who practice law for a living.
My last conversation with a fictional supervisor. Ms. “Haaas” was telling in my matter. So she tried to argue contract law with me. Here she is refusing to listen to statements from my previous FindLaw sales rep. Yes, that would easily verify my account status and the promises that were actually in place until she, or her cohorts interfered and voided them unilaterally.
Here is a hypothetical example in our play of what a FindLaw Marketing attorney-client might experience with a supervisor.
The comedy play we write about FindLaw would include lines like this:
“Clearly, that client is crazy, our Master Services Agreement means we don’t have to honor any of our promises or exercise common sense.”
“But you and your rep said …..”
“Sorry you FEEL that way.” (While evading culpability, the supervisor may blame you for their failure to follow their own company policies on Page 55, for example. Thomson Reuters Code of Conduct.)
FindLaw Supervisors could say, “hey those were”:
Unauthorized “side” letters. “Unauthorized side letters are undisclosed, unapproved letters, emails, notes or verbal agreements that vary standard contract terms. They may bind us to something we cannot deliver or expose us to unwanted liability.
They can include:
Early outs, or the ability for the customer to terminate before the contract expires
Guarantees that the customer will achieve certain milestones
Statements that directly contradict parts of the contract, notably payment terms
Commitments for products or services Thomson Reuters is unable or unwilling to provide or perform
Offers of free or discounted products or services
In other words, FindLaw admits that these varying verbal, emailed, or letters are, in many cases, valid and binding terms. Yet their marketing department supervisors seem to AUTOMATICALLY VOID, ignore, or obfuscate THEM.
And they seem to be highly trained and skilled at using the Master Services Agreement as an excuse or ploy to allow them to ignore this internal FindLaw policy of honoring many of them. And my so called side deal had been in place for years until I asked them to correct inaccurate data. (See below)
Are they not violating their internal policies acknowledging that in many cases, these are valid promises, or “side letters”?
BLAME THE CUSTOMER. Enter FINDLAW FIRMSITES.
One typical example of a different term than their form contract spells out has to do with the website URL that FindLaw displays in your marketing ads. It has long been the case that FindLaw has required an attorney to buy a FL Firmsite if they want to advertise their Non FindLaw website on FindLaw’s paid search products. So this would include products such as an Attorney Spotlite listing.
Many lawyers wished to keep their websites for advertising purposes, primarily because WordPress is much easier to use. But others have faster, pure HTML sites and don’t want people less educated at FindLaw controlling their firm’s main marketing tool, their website.
And either type of platform (WordPress or HTML) is FAR more user-friendly than FindLaw’s clunky Firmsites. In my case they even let my Firmsite SSL Cert expire and NO ONE HAS even apologized.
It’s STILL EXPIRED!!!!
In fact, Ms. Haas asked me: “did you know your SSL cert is expired?”
And I was like, duh, “it’s a Firmsite, you need to fix it!!” She didn’t even know it was HER company’s product. This is what you are forced to deal with at FindLaw.
So to this day, many existing attorney advertisers own a Firmsite. But they use them as a static blog. In exchange, FindLaw places the attorney’s privately served websites in the link on those specific advertising sections like Top Spots or Spotlite Listings.
But What if FindLaw Made Your Firmsite Insecure by Voiding The SSL?
Discussed above, it happened to me. And my account supervisor infers it’s my fault. Mind you; this is a website hosted by FindLaw. http://www.militarymotorcycleattorneys.com/
The High Turnover Problem?
Unfortunately, FindLaw has such an extremely high turnover rate, that no one seems to know the true status of client accounts. Nor are accurate notes kept explaining to the next employee your account status.
So a new hire rep or tech would try and later strip out your firm’s web site’s link, and replace it with the Firmsite you were forced to buy so you could advertise your real website on your ads. (NO JOKE)
They would argue that your real site is not a Firmsite built by FindLaw.
They assume the link to your true website was placed in the Firmsite link area on the ads by “mistake.”
And when you clarify that FindLaw does this with many clients, “why are you singling me out?”, they say “it’s a side deal, do you “want to cancel?”
So imagine that this would happen every few years. And many of us had to hunt down our old reps so they could explain FindLaw’s addendum and arrangements to the new FL supervisors.
In response, their PRESIDENT told many of us that our non Firmsite Ad accounts were “grandfathered.”
Despite emails and history of these so-called “Side Letters,” being active and HONORED with certain users, the entire thing is arbitrary and appears to be based upon the ego of the newest FindLaw supervisor.
The Old Improper Side Deal Argument?
The problem is even the higher-ups, seem to be car salesman material with little knowledge of legal or internet marketing. Even though you tell your rep, and you have an existing agreement in place, rather than upgrade your current account, your rep may sneakily try and get you to sign a new contract. Maybe he tells you it’s an upgrade.
What they are likely doing, in my opinion, is getting you to invalidate (in their mind) your existing agreement by making you agree to a new master services agreement. After all, FindLaw reps are always encouraged to reach out to FindLaw’s corporate attorneys whenever they have an issue where, for example, a client expects FindLaw to keep promises made by its agents.
So in effect, they are securing a new contract. Basically, they just got you to agree to a new Master Services Agreement. Now later, as with me, your rep or supervisor may say your old arrangement is an “improper side deal.” But now, they will not let you make changes to update your website link, etc.
They may not even let you edit your ads or locations from your user profile. And they may even demand you fill out papers before they will change it themselves. It’s all very petty.
But then she might try and patronize you, waving her freshly signed new Master Services agreement around. She may do so gleefully as if it was a presidential pardon to engage in unfair and PETTY tactics.
Do a Lot of Current FindLaw Advertisers Keep Their “Side Letter” Agreements in Place While Others Arbitrarily Lose Theirs?
Interestingly, if you search FindLaw’s current attorney advertisers and run their landing page websites through who.is, you will rapidly see that many lawyers are using non-FindLaw site links when they advertise on FindLaw ads. That means they do not display a FIRMSITE in their ads. And some lawyers have done so for many years.
This pattern, practice, and custom by the FindLaw of honoring these so-called “Side Letters” is based upon common sense. But this intangible quality seems not to be instilled in their sales staff. And this opinion is based upon ad reps and supervisors arguing their case on behalf of FindLaw and not defending you or upholding their end.
These “Side Letters” are Binding Contractual Terms and in No Way Subsumed By the “Master Services Agreement”
Applying contracts in a way that harms some FindLaw attorney advertisers, and unfairly helps others is wrong. It also goes against FindLaw’s own Trust Rules above. Someone is being unjustly enriched, and it’s not me!
After all, these side letters [especially once they have been in effect for years] are a binding term to honor for these FindLaw and other advertisers. And this can be based upon implication, spoken word, conduct, habit, express terms, and custom, and more. Most of all, it remains a matter of honor. So it remains a matter of “trust.”
And this is not just what they teach you in law school; it is also according to FindLaw’s own employee trust rules. It may be a side letter. But it is NOT improper. Also, it is not SUBSUMED by a Master Services Agreement.
This kind of tactic in using this Master Services Agreement disclaimer as a tool to invalidate an agent’s promises, if provable, is unlawful. Also, it remains violative of FindLaw’s own internal published employee policies. And to me, it is cowardly and despicable.
Did FindLaw Promise You Something and Later Say They Don’t Have to Anymore?
We are taking comments now. Has FindLaw promised to do or not do certain things to get your business or renewal? Did your rep or a higher up then renege and try to gaslight you? Maybe they told you to show them where it is in the written contract?
It appears that the standard approach used by FindLaw when reps get confronted by a client pointing out a broken promises to a gas-lit client.
Also, this approach, if proven, appears designed to obstruct and prevent the attorney-client from getting what FindLaw’s agents promised him or her. But at the same FindLaw gets paid its advertising money.
Here is a Great Line for Our FindLaw Ads Comedy Skit.
“tell them anything, get the contract, and then later when they are upset, explain it doesn’t matter what you told them. The Master Services agreement says we don’t have to honor anything you or our management told them,”
One could substitute this scene movie scene in the famous Tom Clancy Blockbuster, Clear and Present Danger. But imagine its a client chat with a FindLaw ads Supervisor and not the assistant Deputy Director of the CIA.
Harrison Ford Plays the FindLaw Attorney Advertising Client.
The CIA Guy in the Suit is the Shifty, Sneaky FindLaw Supervisor.
Notice the FindLaw agent whipping out a copy of the Master Services Agreement. “We don’t have to worry about anything; we are covered!” Muahahahahahahah!
It appears its parent company, Thomson Reuters, has a forum selection clause in its contract with you, the lawyer. Hence, you become forced to sue them for any breaches, misrepresentation, or fraud in Minnesota federal or state court.
Alas, this remains a state that offers far fewer consumer protections for victims of unfair business practices than say, California. So you may have given up, thinking the case isn’t big enough.
Check out the Draconian Terms in The Master Services Agreement.
“General Disclaimer. All warranties, conditions and other terms implied by statute or common law including, without limitation . . . are excluded to the maximum extent permitted by applicable laws. (such as a promise by a rep or a supervisor?), the Services are delivered “as is” without warranty of any kind. Thomson Reuters does not warrant or represent that the Services or that all Faults will be corrected. (What about when your rep promises you as an inducement to deal?). [Emphasis.]
Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any Damages …
Client assumes sole responsibility and entire risk …
Client is solely responsible for the preparation, content, accuracy, and review of any documents, data, or output prepared or resulting from the use of the Service. (Yet FindLaw may not let you update your user info?) (Read More here.) [Emphasis.]
But recent changes to consumer law in Minnesota could invalidate parts of the Master Services Agreement. Of particular concern, they can’t use a contractual term such as this as a subterfuge to ignore promises.
Usually, the more stringent Minnesota consumer protection laws don’t apply. So contracts between a consumer with advertising agencies, such as FindLaw, are generally not strictly scrutinized. But it looks like a great state to nestle your business if the owner wants to have the most sound insulation from honoring contracts. Or is it?
Are there Exceptions to Advertising Agency Exemptions from Consumer Protection?
YES!“….. if the owner, publisher, agent, or employee has either knowledge of the false, misleading or deceptive character of the advertisement or financial interest in the sale or distribution of the advertised merchandise.” (Subd. 3 of Section 325F.69 of Minnesota UNLAWFUL PRACTICES statute.)
Does your FindLaw ads rep or supervisor know that FindLaw ads reps regularly make false promises to its attorney clients that it never intended to keep?
Did your FindLaw ads supervisor attempt to retaliate against you in order obfuscate, delay or to take away services from you, or your job, but not take away services from similarly situated people or companies?
Was a former FindLaw employee feel pressured to say whatever they had to to get the sale. But then you got fired? Or were you forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement when it didn’t work out for FindLaw?
Are you aware of instances where FindLaw ads arbitrarily and capriciously discriminate against one attorney-client over another with the same type of contractual arrangement?
Does your FindLaw Supervisor or Rep Call a Variance Between you and FindLaw an “Unauthorized” “Side Deal.” Does she claim their “Master Services Agreement subsumes it?”
Does your FindLaw supervisor try and argue consumer law with you?
Does she gloat over the superior position their “Master Services Agreement” has placed her in?
Also, forcing a California client to sue for things like deception and fraud in the inducement, in Minnesota is unfair. Hence, you may be able to void the FindLaw forum selection clause.
California’s Interest in Voiding Unfair Portions of Contracts
And this is because California has a vested interest in protecting its citizens. MOST IMPORTANT HERE, that interest lies in safeguarding residents from shady offshore businesses, assuming that is your case.
So yes, California can void parts of your contract and uphold amendments and inducements, as a matter of law. Perhaps it falls under California Business and Professions Code Sec 17200 et. seq? Maybe the company used some unfair tactics? Also, maybe their agents engaged in a pattern and practice of unfair business tactics.
Can Other Countries Hurt Us and Get Away With It?
Each state is a sovereign country. If another state allows a scheme that hurts us, our courts don’t like it. Foreign, out of state business cannot insult Californians.
Especially this is not allowed to secure contracts. And they are not excused from using bait and switch style techniques to lure residents of CA into unfair and dishonest arrangements.
Do You believe that FindLaw Ads Reps Consistently Engage in Any other Conduct Which Similarly Creates a Likelihood of Confusion or Misunderstanding?
So let’s see if this is widespread in the Golden State. Or maybe it’s just a few “bad apple,” “squeaky wheel,” FindLaw Firmsite or Knowledge-base customers complaining. Are you an attorney FindLaw client?
We want to hear from you. So let’s see if this is just a few people. But then again, maybe this is a severe problem in the way they run their attorney facing operations.
As an inducement, your account rep promised to fix problems with your current ads if you would renew.
Did they say the inaccurate information was fixed when it was not?
Did FindLaw cancel a program like “Knowledge Base” and not tell you.
Did they strip out all the articles and links you built to your website and valuable posts?
Does your account rep even know what your account history or status is?
Is your account rep familiar with basic internet advertising terminology? For example, what is SEO, HTML, SCHEMA, JAVA? Or what is a “301 redirect, or subdomain”?
Are you arbitrarily denied services that other attorneys are still receiving? Did this happen after you complained to a supervisor at FindLaw about an offense against you?
(“Our Master Services Agreement means it doesn’t matter what you ‘feel’ we promised you. [patronizing statements in emails to you, for example] You want to cancel?”)
Does the FindLaw supervisor assigned to “help” seem to be trying to act like a defense lawyer for FindLaw? Do you feel like they are not trying to honor FindLaw’s promises to you?
Do they change their story the more you prove to the company that they are in the wrong by their action or inaction, or being unfair?
Can your old account rep(s) verify under penalty of perjury as to any misrepresentations or unfair business dealings?
For example, any past and present sales tactics or administrative refusals to honor promises?
Were these false promises used to entice to procure sales/advertising contracts?
Did FindLaw change or alter your accurate business name as listed on your current ads with them? Did they then try and blame you for switching out your accurate data?
Are they refusing to allow you to make the profile listing changes yourself as you once did?
Why all the Red Tape?
Why all the red tape, and seeming environment of fear uncertainty and doubt within corporate? And why is it so hard to respect clients and not patronize them? Are you a past or present attorney advertiser or employee of FindLaw? Have you sued FindLaw ads and been successful?
Send us your story. That way, we can do a video-cast with screenshots of emails and statements made by the company reps. If you are with the news media or press, you can email us directly on our online contact us form.
Look for us in future editions of the Los Angeles Daily Journal. So let’s try and figure out what’s up. Again, great product, ineffective leadership. Let’s hear your opinions and comments.
I was promised a new ads rep to assist me with his case. It’s been weeks, and no one has responded to my many calls and emails to FindLaw corporate.
NOTE: To Date, my data is still inaccurate and I am paying for it! Total disrespect!
Running a law firm is one of the most challenging things a young professional can do. On the one hand, learning and understanding so much of the law is not simple at all. On the other, it is tough to create and maintain a small business, especially as a young person. All of these make this situation very challenging but also rewarding.
We know exactly where you are coming. Below we used some of the info we learned over the years to guide you along in the process.
Understanding Your Business Model
No two law firms are the same. Depending on experience, location, and more, there are a lot of factors to consider. However, many firms have similar goals and growth patterns. And this is where several common tropes help you grow similarly to others.
There are several significant uses of time that show the efficiency of a firm. For one, how much time gets spent in the courtroom versus outside. The extra care and time make a significant difference. More successful attorneys delegate administrative duties to others. I know that it’s hard to hire people right away or bring on partners as a young firm.
However, the less time used “grinding” through tedious tasks, the more time is used working on the more essential ticket items. It also makes you more efficient as an attorney and as a professional. Such patterns will also build upon themselves, allowing you to grow in your career.
There are many factors beyond time in and out of court. However, many issues and efficiencies come straight from these first ideas.
Michael Ehline is the head attorney at the Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC, one of the leading personal injury and auto accident firms in California. He writes this column to help up and coming attorneys in their development.
Since most drivers are out on the road nearly every day, drivers must be aware of car accident risks. And although accidents are rare for individual drivers, statistically, they remain persistent. Being able to determine some of the common features between such accidents and how to prevent future accidents. You won’t be able to avoid all of them. But tips like this sure can help unwary travelers.
Not Driving Defensively
Many accidents happen when other drivers are driving aggressively, causing issues on the road. Many try to dominate lanes or tailgate other drivers. Making sure to de-escalate the situation with defensive driving can help. Also, you can receive low-cost classes on how to do so. And that also reduce your insurance rate.
Low Speed Crashes are Common
While many of the most severe crashes happen at high speed, many are at 30 miles per hour or lower. Some are simply unavoidable or the result of factors such as weather or faulty parts or manufacture. Driving a little under the speed limit or as circumstances allow can further reduce the risk of a crash.
Drunk and Impaired Drivers
Drunk and impaired drivers make the roadways much less safe. A NHTSA report indicated that over 8% of drivers at any time could have alcohol in their systems. It’s hard to avoid those driving under the influence, but they are a common sight, unfortunately, and a common source of accidents.
Using Proper Safety Gear
Make sure that your airbags are properly functioning and that you and your passengers buckle up for every single ride. Make sure that your lights are properly working and not causing issues on the road.
Many car accidents are the result of a driver falling asleep, losing control of the wheel, or facing other issues. Keep aware of your surroundings at all times.
The more time on the road, often, the safer the driver is behind the wheel. Facing many types of situations over the years makes a driver much less likely to get into a crash and avoid issues with other drivers.
Elements Out of Your Control
There are many factors that a driver cannot always control. Some include obvious ones, including weather. However, in other cases, faulty parts or maintenance can cause severe accidents when least expected. There could also be road or signage defects that spark crashes (Read More.)
Skilled Attorneys Can Answer Questions
Often one of the most potent tools for both preventing and responding to accidents is the word of an experienced attorney. A lawyer that has seen it all before could explain how different accidents occur and past cases they’ve seen.
Ehline Law’s skilled team is available for advice or to review any possible claims you may have. Please email us using the form on the right or call us at 888-400-9721 at any time of the day.
The attack and injury on then-60-year-old Nick Buckhalter at his home in September 2016 was astonishing. Vacaville police attacked the senior after hearing a screech of his tires at his house one night.
A plainclothes police officer called in the information, and within minutes, police were on the scene. As a result of the incident, Mr. Buckhalter is suing the city, its police department, and those involved.
Excessive Force and Arrest
What should have been a relaxing drive out became a nightmare. Forced to sit on the ground, Mr. Buckhalter remained handcuffed against his will. And not only that. One plainclothes officer. Also, the vet warned the officers about his artificial shoulder. And also, the tightly handcuffed him anyway.
Officer Daniel Torres further charged Buckhalter with resisting arrest after the victim’s hand snapped forward due to his artificial shoulder. The application of excessive force led to severe injury. Also, the arrest itself took place without any viable probable cause.
The victim’s attorneys, led by Constitutional defender Alan Beck, allege the officers’ actions were in bad faith and “reckless disregard of Mr. Buckhalter’s federally protected constitutional rights.”
Furthermore, the actions of the officers that night led the vet to severe physical and emotional damage. Due to the assault, Mr. Buckhalter lost the use of two of his fingers.
He still feels pain from the incident today. Saddled with several medical bills and trauma, Buckhalter has permanent shoulder damage.
There are many aspects to this case that interests legal scholars. A clear precedent formed revolving around the abuse of the victim’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. He was not secure in his person from false arrest at his own home.
Additionally, the attack seems possibly racially motivated. Most of all, the combination was a dangerous one and abused by the officers. Furthermore, the justice sought by Mr. Buckhalter will be a beacon for others abused by police.
This case is an exciting yet saddening confluence of many factors. So this includes malice, assault, battery, and illegal arrest. But also, wanton disrespect of a citizen’s Constitutional rights remains at issue.
Of particular interest, the team of Beck, Yorkey, and Beekman is the best possible one to take them on, however. Their years of experience and knowledge of the case study is invaluable.
Amid speculation by some that Google driverless vehicles might just bankrupt personal injury attorneys, others are saying, “Hey, not so fast.” More and more, we are stories of politicians forced wage increases for fast-food workers. And politicians trying to get re-elected offering voters unearned wage increases, while taking money from the automated machine industry. And of curse we see shops close up, and a backlash by employers.
Outsourcing Jobs and Drivers
Because of these laws, employers outsource jobs to business-friendly countries that honor job creators. Another reaction for many service businesses, is employers turning to automated equipment and technology. And all of this is just to avoid the ever-increasing government encroachment. After all, most businesses are feast or famine ventures.
Even Google, heavily invested in the Democrat party, seems to be leading the way to replace workers with technology. Good or bad, it’s happening. but why is that? Look at it as a business owner. You have workers, and you pay them what they AGREED on. But then they form unions and demand more benefits.
Or look at teenaged interns and externs. They treat people with contempt who may help give them a chance to gain work experience. So here you are offering an internship, and they go ahead and sue you for such an employment law claim. And yes, the new future for America is technology. Spending a large part of your life on a perfect college campus now gets you a job as one of the professionally unemployed.
Kiasaki Said It?
Robert Kiasaki explained this years ago. but it appears that the need for re-election votes is fueling the decline of the employer, employee relationships at a faster rate than technology are probably ready for.
So naturally, entrepreneurs are seeking to achieve what remains of the American Dream. And they must come up with creative ways of surviving. One example is in grocery store self-checkouts. Cashiers are expensive when compared to grocers, for example. But consumers like me find self-checkout to be a hassle.
So we stand in line to have a human cashier help us. Naturally, these self checkers remain unused in some cases. Of course, once the technology is improved, the goods will be automatically charged when you place them in your shopping cart. Afterward, the human cashier will be unemployed. In other words, once you remove the hassle factor from technological advances, shoppers won’t miss the human cashier anymore.
In my last article dealing with Google’s new driverless vehicles, I discussed the potential driverless vehicle downside to PI attorneys. And I also talked about the car accident field of PI law in general. But I went into the fact that Google and other companies perhaps could even shield themselves from legal liability by forming partnerships with the government, similar to the Metrolink and Metro Rail systems.
Then, a few weeks ago, I ran across another tragic story involving a Google driverless vehicle running over and killing a dog. So that really got me thinking about my kids, especially small toddlers, too small or low to the ground. Because of their smaller size, they are not always picked up by the current sensing technology.
In any event, this gives me a chance to discuss California law as it relates to the negligent killing of a family pet, using this latest and strange example of what seems to be coming our way with technological advances. The facts relate that Google is investigating itself over a “Street View Car” that ran over a doggy in Chile. Mapping the world is one of Google’s special features that other search engines and mapmakers do not have. In this case, images from a Street View car in Chile shows what appears to be a camera carrying vehicle running over a dog and leaving it for dead.
The scene can be watched shot by shot on Google Maps by following the Meza Bell 2815. The dog appears to be walking in front of the car. And suddenly, the rear-facing camera shows the canine lying on the road without movement. Even following the zoom view back as far as it can go, the dog still does not get up off the roadway. Upon closer inspection, in one image, the dog can be seen moving. But he’s not getting up. So this means it could either be severely injured or lying on the pavement for enjoyment. The other glaring issue here is a person in the image who does not rush to the canine. But this may mean one of two things.
Did Google Do It?
Either the dog was not hit, or it is in an area where there is a large population of stray dogs. Hence, dogs getting run over there may not be unusual. Google said it’s investigating the images of the camera vehicle and dog. They said they have guidelines in place to protect people and animals while mapping locations around the world.
The search engine company stated this type of alleged incident is not uncommon. January of last year, a camera vehicle was accused of hitting a donkey in Botswana when images of the Street View showed the donkey walking alongside the vehicle and then lying on the ground. Google proved the images were not what they appeared to be, and it was not a hit and run incident. Go here to view some more of the disturbing pictures.
Who Do I Sue If Google Runs Over My Pet?
Assuming arguendo the incident took place in California, and proof showed a Google Driverless Vehicle killed your family dog or cat, then what? Assuming no government defendants, other liable parties may include Google. But others may also be at fault, such as manufacturers, producers of car and sensing equipment, and any other party in the chain of commerce that brought the vehicle to the end-user. If there was an occupant in the car with the ability to control or co-pilot the car, then the occupant is also a potential defendant for all foreseeable damages.
What Kind of Damages Can I Get If Google Runs Over My Animal in California?
For purposes of this discussion, we will limit this discourse to California law, since I am only licensed to practice in this state. Under California law, an animal is considered property, so it is treated as “economic” damages ONLY. This means you can recover the costs of the economic losses associated with the animal. Some cases involving the loss of an animal can be quite significant.
A prize horse run over by a Google car could result in millions of dollars in economic losses for the market replacement value. It could turn out that the age, breed, training, purchase price, characteristic, or another trait, gave it some extra-ordinary value. We can imagine a specially trained guard, seeing eye. Maybe its a show dog that does AKC shows? So yes, these would have special value, and they do. But again, this is economic value, not sentimental value. Mostly, it remains pretty intangible when it comes to “property.”
Work Donkey Example
A donkey being run over by a driver-less vehicle, is probably worth very little. If you use the donkey for work, you recover the replacement value of the donkey. Also, you’d be awarded money for lost work arguably, as damages. In most of the common cases, cars run over stray, or family dogs and cats. Many drivers swerve to avoid animals crossing the road. And with good reason, California criminal statutes seek to prosecute people that violate the rights of animals. And some prosecutorial agencies, such as the City of Los Angeles, have their own “Animal Protection Units.”
So the Vehicle Code also comes into play here. And it seeks to maintain safe driving for the conditions presented on the road. But sometimes not swerving could be animal abuse. Still other times, not swerving could result in a negligent chain collision. If, for example, swerving could cause a vehicle pile-up, the Vehicle Code expects you to act reasonably. Otherwise, drivers become civilly liable.
In other words, the driver is expected to be mindful of all of this. And this is because we are all “presumed to know the law.” Also, damages can come in the form of a probation agreement and court order to pay as part of probation. But these damages are in the form of “restitution.” These are typically what we see in DUI accident cases. So a drunk driver has to pay back the crash victims or face “working it off” in jail.
Other damages you can seek as a grieving victim could be the veterinarian bills, for example. In some California jurisdictions, we have even seen awards that appear to be for “sentimental,” or peculiar value. And this is something that most pet-owning victims “really” want. In one unique case, a California jury found in favor of the plaintiff.
Ten Dollar Dog With a $30,000 Value?
And it found that the dog was worth ten dollars “replacement” value. But clearly, the jury was moved and wanted to find a way to send a message of sympathy. So, in that case, the trier of fact awarded $30,000 more for the “special value” of the dog. California law allows such an award if an item has “peculiar value” to the owner. But the person who harmed it has to know that fact in advance. But each case is different, and the cause of the death of the dog was due to veterinary malpractice.
What Special Duty?
But unless you can show some special duty, as above it is doubtful you’ll prevail. Of special interest, punitive damages and emotional distress are the newer forms of damages creative lawyers are testing. They seek to increase the value of these cases. Insurance companies and house counsel for companies like Google won’t like it if they succeed.
After all, the big companies presently argue most of these cases are at the low end of the value spectrum. And most courts probably agree.
Risk of Jamming the Courts
Also, it remains foreseeable these cases could clog our already underfunded courts. So I doubt these cases are the new thing, at least not yet.
If this technology is rushed, I can see not only dog and cat cases, but those involving children. So for now, the race to replace humans with machines has many unintended consequences.
When the Governments Says “We Are Here To Help.”
And the government is unwittingly encouraging the mass exodus to machines and technology. And the fallout could mean many lawsuits and claims against companies like Google, or Amazon, Imagine head injury cases against Amazon.
For example, delivery drones crashing onto your head, etc. So naturally, injury lawyers may cash in on these cases. Also, Google probably doesn’t want massive amounts of small claims actions. However, these are sure to occur should the driverless vehicle be a safety flop.
Testosterone therapy is FDA approved. The purpose of these drugs involves boosting male sex hormone levels. This condition is known as hypogonadism. And it has been marketed as a lifestyle product to men experiencing the normal effects of aging. And in 2012, manufacturers Abbot Laboratories. Also, AbbVie spent more than $80 million advertising Androgel. So that places it among the most popular testosterone supplements on the U.S. market.
And their ad campaign targets middle-aged men with a “Low T” symptoms checklist that asks:
Has your sex drive diminished?
Have you been feeling moody?
Do you have less energy?
Are you experiencing decreased muscle mass or strength?
Doctors say that less energy, a waning libido, and increased body fat are normal facets of aging. So the low testosterone or “Low T” industry largely invented condition called “low T.” After all, testosterone levels naturally start to drop in men after the age of 30. So it’s really normal T.
And only some testosterone patients are actually tested for and diagnosed with hypogonadism. Yet, millions of men now use Low T supplements. Some products have questionable medical benefits. Also, they carry dangerous side effects. And these include an increased risk for heart attacks and stroke. Also, a Drug Reporter article links TRT, and heart attacks. Sadly, strokes and other serious health complications also come into play.
Deceptive testosterone therapy marketing tactics
Androgel remains among America’s best-selling testosterone replacement supplements. And it’s sold as skin patches, creams, injections, and gels. And these include brand products. These include Axiron, Fortesta, Striant, Tesopel, Testim, Bio-T Gel, and Androderm. Also, low T supplements have been promoted as a veritable fountain of youth. And this is done in direct-to-consumer ads. Interestingly, many in the medical community view them as misleading and deceptive.
“The market for testosterone gels evolved because there is an appetite among men and because there is advertising . . . The problem is that no one has proved that it works, and we don’t know the risks.” This is according to Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Joel Finkelstein. And that’s what he told The New York Times in 2013.
Recently, product liability lawsuits were filed against Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie Inc. And plaintiffs allege these companies “deceived potential AndroGel users by relaying positive information through the press, including testimonials from retired professional athletes…while downplaying known adverse and serious health risks.”
The first wave of Androgel lawsuits brought in 2014. And they came on the heels of an FDA announcement. And they said that regulators would be re-examining the risks of testosterone replacement supplements. Most of all this is because new research suggested a higher risk of strokes. Also, cardiovascular injury provesmore common in certain populations of men who used them.
Testosterone side effects and increased heart attack risk
One of the most worrisome published studies on testosterone risks is in January 2014. PLoS One Medical Journal. There, researchers found that men aged 65 and older, as well as younger patients with previously undiagnosed heart disease, had twice the risk of suffering a heart attack from testosterone therapy after just three months.
A separate study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that topical application of testosterone gel can raise the risk of myocardial infarction. Also, it confirms that stroke and atrial fibrillation can happen more in older men. And some men using Low T products have experienced transient ischemic attacks (TIA).
Of special interest, these are known as mini-strokes. And these remain known precursors to strokes in about 30% of patients. But strokes and adverse cardiovascular events are just a couple of the life-threatening side effects. However, the common link with these strokes is testosterone replacement therapy.
Also, other reported side effects include:
Increased risk for prostate cancer
Pulmonary embolism – a potentially deadly blood clot in the lungs
Polycythemia (high red blood cell count tied to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack)
Lawsuits mount alleging testosterone therapy injuries
Across the country, dozens of testosterone lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers. And these include recent cases against AbbVie Inc., Pfizer, and Auxilium Pharmaceuticals. Plaintiffs contend that no proper warnings were given about the dangers of Low T supplements. And plaintiffs allege a number of debilitating and potentially fatal side effects. And they claim it was from using the gels.
So for example, allegations include victims suffering from heart attacks, and deep vein thrombosis. Other plaintiffs allege strokes, TIAs and pulmonary embolisms are outcomes of TRT. Also several wrongful death suits been brought by family members. Of special concern here, their deceased loved ones died after using testosterone therapy.
To streamline the escalating numbers of similar claims and factual issues, federal suits were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Enter Judge Matthew Kennelly
So now they are before Judge Matthew Kennelly. Also, the Testosterone Replacement Therapy Products Liability Litigation, is classified as MDL 2545. And MDL 2545 began with less than 50 Androgel claims. But now it has amassed over 1,000 low T drug injury cases.
Legal experts predict an expansion of litigation. And this is because more studies point to testosterone and cardiovascular linked risks. But the majority of of 2015 will be focused on general and case-specific discovery processes. And the first bellwether trials, which are 6 Androgel cases, are slated to go before a jury in October of 2016.
Also, claimants want money for medical expenses, lost income, plus reduced earning capacity. Last, they are seeking money for pain and suffering. And that demand is based on failure to warn, fraud, negligence, and unjust enrichment.
By attorney Michael Ehline: If California could find a way to regulate the legal profession, this is it. Rambo style litigators may now be under watch from above. Trial attorneys make up a substantial portion of the professional class in the state, and now Californians may find a change in attitude.
Due to a decision of the state Supreme Court, attorneys are now required to promise to act with “dignity, courtesy, and integrity.” The rules may not make as much of a difference in the court room, but with the need for competent attorneys, ranging from practicing constitutional theory to injury lawsuits, this could make a difference.
The addition to the oath fits in with the current standard, promising to uphold the state and national constitutions. According to the State Bar Association’s brief on the matter, the changes would be “consistent with the State Bar’s past and ongoing efforts to enhance lawyer professionalism and civility.”
Some attorneys will recall that a similar rule was at one time. And it was a codified and mandatory requirement of the CA Bar.
Some lawyers gt before the Bar with charges for acting in an “uncivil” manner lodged against them. Often this was done by opposing counsel. Many lawyers disagree with these types of requirements. Deciding the outcome could be a panel of political-minded or competing attorneys. And that could spell doom to the charged lawyer, for one reason or another.
My view is that political correctness is destroying our country. Also, if rules like this become mandatory, they will chill advocacy and speech. So why not let the marketplace decide what attorney stays in business? Is that so novel? Although it is a profession, personalities of some lawyers rub others the wrong way.
Forcing rules upon jurists, rather than let society decide with their pocketbook, can hurt and not help the legal profession. Guidelines for a lawyer’s civil behavior are in Blackstone’s Commentaries. And they can be found in Psalms and Proverbs. But hopefully, you were taught to all of this by our parents.
Proponents will argue that this ruling is a mere goal. After all, it is yet not a punishable offense. However, my view is that lawyers should have a personal sense of honor. We do not need a nanny or policy goal to tell us how to behave.
Vague and ambiguous rules open the door for a bureaucrat to dictate how an advocate should advocate. Taboo is taboo. And people will know it when they see it. People will steer clear of a bad lawyer. With online reviews, rating systems and organizations like the Circle of Legal Trust, exacting standards can be found and retained by needy clients.
As noted in the above video, if someone you loved has died or got severely injured in a plane crash, you must be looking for some way to find justice. There are rarely any survivors in plane crashes, and almost every plane crash ends up with everyone on the plane dead. There can be hundreds and thousands of reasons for a plane crash, and you, as a person sitting at home or working at the office, might never know the real reason behind a downing. And this scenario makes these cases extremely difficult. However, there are still lawyers out there who can help you with these situations.
Why the “Plane Crash Case” Is So Difficult?
Any case can become a difficult case when the real offender or at-fault party remains obscured. Also, when a plane crashes, hundreds of contributing factors may exist. One cause of crashes can be the pilot’s negligence. And the carelessness of the airline traffic controllers could be another. But these are not the only reasons for a catastrophe. For example, a plane could crash due to some design defect or defective parts in its engine. An airline could be blamed for the negligence of the pilot if the pilot is known for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The recruiting Airline must always have strict tests to ensure that its pilots are following the codes and guidelines of flying a plane. Also, some pilots have to fly aircraft like helicopters, and even experimental aircraft such as VSTOL or VTOL craft. But sometimes they don’t get enough rest between their shifts. However, all these factors are complicated to prove when the platform and structures have crashed, been burned, scattered, mangled, and even lost. Of course, there are also no witnesses usually, since most of the time, all the people aboard have died. When you look at an aircraft as a whole, there could be more than a dozen companies involved in the manufacturing of various parts installed.
Lastly, there is an instance in which the hijackers hijack the plane. Only an experienced attorney can help you best with your case. If you are living in the US, you can easily find a law firm with experienced attorneys, www.ehlinelaw.com, who can help you with your plane crash case.
An Example Of Recent Airplane Mishap.
The recent disappearance of AirAsia flight QZ8501 is another instance where an airplane completely disappeared. And that left people in awe and intrigue as to what actually would have happened to the plane. It is said that the pilot was requesting to go on an infrequent and peculiar route just before the plane lost contact and disappeared. So this could be a possible hijack since hijackers often force pilots to take a certain course in the air and reach their desired destination. But to this day, no one knows what happened to flight QZ8501. And officials of the Airline can only be seen apologizing for the loss.
What made people feel awkward about this particular case is what happened March of 2014. And most of us remember then, that an airplane of Malaysian Airlines had disappeared. And a few days after this incident, the magazine of AirAsia said something that sounded like a pun on the missing flight’s Airline. The magazine stated that AirAsia trains its pilots so strictly that they can never “lose” a plane. However, the CEO had to apologize. So he clarified that the magazine had already gone through the printing stage when the Malaysian Airline’s flight disappeared.
How To Hire An Attorney In This Scenario.
First, look for the most reputable law firms in your area. Also, look for the most experienced lawyers to stand for you in this case. As mentioned above, these cases can be challenging to prove. Not to mention, you don’t have any information about the last minutes of the transmission between the plane and the control tower. And here you are, standing against a huge conglomerate. Go for law firms that have their aviation attorneys who know the procedures to collect evidence in aviation cases. Most of all, they have the know-how to get the investigation adequately conducted.
These attorneys also have access to the records of government agencies that are investigating these cases. Always make sure to visit the website of the law firm and see if the firm has already been handling any plane crash cases. So lost luggage and small cases don’t compare to what it takes to resolve the plane crash case.
Attorney Michael EhliThe definition of a wrongful death lawsuit begins with the death of a person who dies due to the negligence or carelessness of another person, a company, manufacturer or entity. This type of death can be challenged in a court of law by the immediate family or a personal representative of the deceased, to hold the negligent party responsible for the death. Most commonly, the immediate family that files the wrongful death lawsuit with the assistance of a wrongful death attorney will be a surviving spouse, children of the deceased, parents, and in some cases grandparents or another family member directly affected by the death.
Possible Types of Wrongful Death
some common types of situations can be responsible for the wrongful death of a person. They include:
Motor vehicle accidents due to careless or reckless behavior on the roadway that results in the death of another person. And this can involve car, motorcycle, bus and big rig accidents. Pedestrian and bicycle accidents that result in death due to the negligence of a motor vehicle driver. Bicycle accidents resulting in death might also be due to a manufacturer or company’s poor design or defective parts.
Defective products can place the company or manufacturer as a negligent party when the product was poorly designed or had a defect, or there was a failure to warn of dangers associated with a product, which was directly responsible for the death of a consumer.
Death By Product
Yes, the death can be from a defective electronic product, a faulty motor vehicle or aftermarket part. Other examples could be a motorcycle with a poor design. Also, recalled products, including medications can be responsible for a wrongful death. And the manufacturer(s) can be held negligent.
Medical malpractice can be responsible for the death of a person. The death may be caused by medical practices, medical procedures by an inexperienced or untrained medical professional, inappropriate care in conjunction with other medical professionals, and other types of medical errors.
Workplace negligence can result in a wrongful death action. And it can happen when there is improper maintenance of equipment. Basically, anytime hazardous conditions exist, death is sue to follow. For example, imagine a hazardous substance used at your workplace without proper protection and ventilation. But it can happen in other ways. For example, airplane and bus accidents caused by operator error, reckless behavior, or lack of proper maintenance that results in death. Dog bite attacks can result in wrongful death, and the owner remains accountable for the animal’s actions in most cases.
Criminal Behavior or Actions
Wrongful death lawsuits have time constraints. And the lawsuit must be filed within the legal time limit. If not, the court rejects the filing.
Understanding Pecuniary Loss
Punitive damages are a part of the wrongful death lawsuit. And they come into play when the acts were reckless, grossly negligent or intentional. Most of all, the death of another person took place. This is a way to punish the negligent party and to avoid similar actions in the future. This is a monetary amount that the jury awards, but when it is excessive the judge presiding over the lawsuit can reduce the amount that is awarded. So this part of the claim will consider the victim’s age.
Understanding Compensatory Damages
Next, the jury might look at an adult decedent’s earning capacity, medical costs, funeral costs, and other expenses. These compensatory damages are monies awarded by the jury or a judge to repay the victim’s family for special costs. So funeral, burial costs, any medical care, and other expenses are tallied. Also included are other costs incurred as a direct result of the wrongful death. These projectable expenses would include lost income the dead victim would have earned. And this could span decades, depending on the age of the victim at the time of their death. Compensation may be awarded for housekeeping, child care, grief and loss of companionship. And compensation can include other damages.
The Use of Experts
Experts are often used in a wrongful death lawsuit. And they can help prove the effect of the loss of the victim and the victim’s worth to the family. This can include experts for the victim that did not work outside of the home and can be especially important for the jury. But not all jurors will have a clear understanding of what the expenses can include. For example, a loss of being able to do your housekeeping and child care. Also, expert testimony can assist the jury in determining the dollar amount of damages awardable. So that way the survivors of the wrongful death victim garner their fair share for the loss.
Wrapping Up the Fundamentals of Wrongful Death Law and Getting a Personal Injury Lawyer
Understanding wrongful death law is only the first step. The fundamentals of wrongful death lawsuits basically get your foot into the courthouse door and clearly set up a road map for success for the tort victim. You [the victim] still need a veteran attorney. And that person needs vast legal experience as a wrongful death attorney.
There are many methods of doing this. You can go online and do a search. For example, if you live in Los Angeles, you could do a search for Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys. If you live in San Francisco, you will do the same search. But you’ll use “San Francisco” as your keywords.
Your doctor may try to set you up with a lawyer at the hospital. Be very careful, as there is probably something in it for the doctor beyond just a handshake from the lawyer. Good lawyers try to reduce hospital and doctor bills. If there aren’t an arms’-length relationship, the ethics of such a deal can be called into question.
You can call a non-practicing TV or “picture on bench or bus” lawyer who could refer you to another inexperienced lawyer for a fee. Or a friend could tell you about a lawyer. But the problem is that you only get one person’s view. Instead, look at the user reviews online of different accident attorneys. Also, vet your lawyer. And make sure he or she can wrap up your case to MAX your verdict or settlement.
To Yelp! or not to Yelp! that is the question. And it reverberates with which many struggling law firms. We fear if we stop the paid ads, Yelp! will screw up our reviews and make us look bad. Courts appear to believe Yelp! can do what would amount to extortion if the internet wasn’t the forum used.
When we speak to Yelp! reps, they say that Yelp! never favors advertisers over non-advertisers, and there is nothing to fear. Then we hear other stories of lawyers upset at Yelp! being revenge sued by Yelp! for expressing their feelings about Yelp! So let’s go with what we do know.
Let’s see what green light courts have given Yelp! Can they basically do whatever they want with your reviews given by you to others? Can they ethically bury the legitimate reviews of others about your business or law firm?
Did the 9th Circuit Just Give Yelp! a Green Light To “Hard Bargain” Extort Businesses?
Yelp! has had challenges in the idea with small businesses they can imply a pay-to-play structure with positive and negative reviews and how they are displayed on their site. The 9th Circuit Court’s three-judge panel has agreed with Yelp by ruling that even if the plaintiffs would be able to provide adequate proof of Yelp removing or replacing positive reviews and manipulating star ratings for paid ads. The panel in the ruling said Yelp would not have been doing anything illegal.
This ruling may help to show what Yelp has as a business platform and what rights businesses have involving user reviews. The ruling according to the SFgate newspaper had the ruling at 3-0, with Judge Marsha Berzzon stating in the ruling
“As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the (alleged) threat of economic harm … is, at most, hard bargaining.”
Judge Berzon went on to say that threatening economic harm by extortion is “exceedingly narrow concept.” This isn’t the first court ruling, one earlier was in a lower court that dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought by business owners claiming in the suit Yelp penalized them.
The lawsuit alleged the penalty was for not purchasing advertising on the site. And the suit listed evidence such as watching nine 5 star reviews for their business disappear, but once they agreed to buy ads, the reviews reappeared. One business in the class action lawsuit the Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital of Santa Barbara claimed a sales rep offered to hide negative reviews if they paid.
With the court ruling, it is difficult to say what is legal and what isn’t by going on the class action dismissal and then the higher court three-panel ruling. But certainly, some businesses that have used Yelp feel they have been wronged.
So Yelp!, for its part in the legal actions, issued a statement on their blog that was self-righteous looking at it from some user’s views. Also, the statement says how happy they are the court reached the right decision. Yelp! claims the plaintiffs and their attorneys attempted to disparage Yelp! to detract from their negative reviews.
Yelp!’s Shareholders Have Sued Yelp!?
But Yelp! hasn’t seen the last of their problems. With another lawsuit recently filed, maybe some fairness will be granted. Alarmingly, this is a shareholder’s lawsuit. And this suit claims the company misled shareholders. The lawsuit says they were dishonest as to the true nature of their algorithm, manipulative reviews and ratings. Of particular interest, the lawsuit cites the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as a source of consumer complaints about Yelp!
Remarkably, the FTC has received over 2,000 complaints involving Yelp! And some allege extortion. Another lawsuit against Yelp for false advertising over claiming it has “the most trusted reviews.” The bottom line is that many people with businesses are scared of Yelp!, and rightly so.
So far, the arguments I have had with their reps make me scared. And the court opinions shed light on the fact that judges must not be getting many bad reviews on Yelp! Also, no matter what, a few negative reviews, especially if they are being featured, is cause for business concern.
Most of all, whether Yelp! is manipulating its algorithm to harm non paying customers is not the issue presented today for our discussion. The issue is that this behavior has now greenlit by some courts. So I, for one, am praying that some other medium will replace Google and Yelp! Noteworthy here, they have too much power over local ranking signals.
Also, we need something more neutral like a trustworthy Net Promoter Score (NPS) system. Last, sites like Yelp! should not be the gold standard. Most of all, the Yelp! model allows too much room to harm and promote based upon money.