Charleston, WV— The American Tort Reform Association released a report that shows millions of dollars being spent in television ads by trial lawyers in two top West Virginia media markets. Senate Bill 66 that passed the State Senate with bipartisan support is now in the House of Delegates that would seek to prohibit deceptive lawsuit advertising practices.
“We know these ads may be irritating or even comical at times, but they absolutely can have negative effects on consumers,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said. “Oftentimes, a TV ad with a lawyer speaking might claim a certain prescription or medical device may cause harm, and without consulting a doctor, viewers who are prescribed these medications may cease use due to the fear created by unfounded advertisements.”
West Virginia’s largest media market, Charleston, saw $3.6 million spent in its local television market to air more than 82,000 trial lawyer ads between January and September of 2018. Viewers saw an average of one legal services ad every five minutes, and 16 percent of the ads related to alleged injuries caused by asbestos, pharmaceutical drugs or medical devices.
In the Mountain State’s third largest media market, spending in Clarksburg was significantly less with a total of $300,000 spent to air more than 7,300 trial lawyer advertisements between January and September of last year. Approximately the same amount of ads were related to alleged injuries caused by asbestos, pharmaceutical drugs or medical devices, at 14 percent. There was an uptick in both spending and in the number of ads that aired in the third quarter of last year, leading up to elections.
“Senate Bill 66 is a great step to ensure any deceptive television ads that could lead to unintended consequences are prohibited,” said West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Executive Director Jordan Burgess. “West Virginia citizens deserve honest information when it comes to issues like their healthcare, and not potentially misleading information being pushed by lawyers on television.”
A Public Opinion Strategies survey found that three-quarters of Americans saw ads by law firms about pharmaceutical lawsuits in 2016. The survey goes on to say that one-in-four people who saw one of these ads concerning a medicine they take, say they would immediately stop taking the medicine without consulting their doctor.
“The West Virginia House of Delegates has a great opportunity to ensure West Virginians are not misled by deceptive television ads with the passage of Senate Bill 66,” continued Burgess. “We thank the Senate for their hard work on improving the lives of all West Virginians with the passage of Senate Bill 66 that will empower citizens to make decisions with their physician, and not out of fear from misinformation by lawyers on television.”