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Thursday, August 9, 2007

CPSC Investigating Fisher-Price; Lawyers Have Noticed

I admit I can't stop picturing a courtroom scene performed entirely in the Fisher-Price little people.  Perhaps this guy can provide the puppetry for the eventual made-for-TV movie.  But, in any event...

Via Consumerist and a bunch of other places, the CPSC is investigating Mattel (which owns Fisher-Price) for the speed of reporting injuries.  This, of course, is related to the massive recall of Fisher-Price toys for the presence of lead paint.

An aside on the lawyering/advertising front: One of the places that came up in Google News when I was trying to find a not-behind-a-wall link for the AP story was something called News Inferno, which links to ToyInjuries.com for a list of the recalled toys (rather than, say, to the CPSC's announcement). 

ToyInjuries.com is a site for NY-based firm Parker Waichmann Alonso, which may sound familiar to readers, as it was the first firm out of the gate advertising for Minneapolis bridge collapse victims.  And, going back a step, to whom is NewsInferno.com registered?  Why, that'd be the named partner Jerry Parker of Parker Waichmann Alonso, though that's identified nowhere on the site.  The disclosure is particularly notable given this on the "Partnerships" page:

We believe the public must always have access to complete, honest, and objective news coverage of important issues which special interest groups and others would rather see under-reported or ignored by mainstream news services. The exchange of information between all types of reporting organizations can help ensure that the public will not be kept in the dark.

I'm not sure what's left of the New York advertising regulations...Eric?

--BC

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Comments

The 30-day rule is still in effect, which bars solicitation within 30 days of a "specific incident."

Here is the text and a link:

(g) No solicitation relating to a specific incident involving potential claims for personal injury or wrongful death shall be disseminated before the 30th day after the date of the incident, unless a filing must be made within 30 days of the incident as a legal prerequisite to the particular claim, in which case no unsolicited communication shall be made before the 15th day after the date of the incident.

If this law firm is based in New York then it seems they may have committed an ethical violation only if:

1. They have partnered with a Minnesota firm (or any other agent) to make a solicitation on their behalf; and
2. The New York rules are deemed to apply in a Minnesota action. (I would guess yes, since it regulates NY attorneys, but none of this has been litigated yet).

Hope that helps.

--ET

Posted by: Eric Turkewitz | Aug 9, 2007 8:11:39 AM

Is it allowable to have a site directing potential clients to your services without having that site identified as being associated with you? Here I'm looking more at the ToyInjuries.com site than at the bridge advertising.

Posted by: Bill Childs | Aug 9, 2007 9:22:44 AM

A quick look at the newsinferno site and I see that almost all of the links go back to the Parker Waichman site. Neither the "news" site or the firm's formal web site is marked as "attorney advertising." The web site clearly must be on the home page if they practice in New York, as that part of the new attorney rules was not overturned. The rules also state that:

(h) All advertisements shall include the name, principal law office address and
telephone number of the lawyer or law firm whose services are being offered.

and this:

(e) A lawyer or law firm may utilize a domain name for an internet web site that
does not include the name of the lawyer or law firm provided:
(1) all pages of the web site clearly and conspicuously include the actual
name of the lawyer or law firm;
(2) the lawyer or law firm in no way attempts to engage in the practice of
law using the domain name;
(3) the domain name does not imply an ability to obtain results in a matter;
and
(4) the domain name does not otherwise violate a disciplinary rule.

The faux news site sure looks like advertising to me, but you can see how the difference between a news site and a blog has a million shades of gray. As you know, there is no shortage of PI sites that will re-print an article on some local car crash, and then follow-up with, "If you are hurt, call me at blah, blah, blah."

So what is the difference between blog (or news site) that could be constitutionally protected anonymous speech (McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission), and an attorney's web site? Well, I don't feel like being the test case to see where the First Amendment line is drawn, so you won't see much self-promotion on my blog. (Also, it's really boring and no one wants to read it.)


This web site should answer a lot of questions:
http://www.nysba.org/Template.cfm?Section=HOME&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=82602

There are a lot of unresolved issues that would make for a nice article (though I don't have the time currently, so you or your readers may want to develop this further.)

--ET

Posted by: Eric Turkewitz | Aug 9, 2007 10:44:05 AM

The web site clearly must be on the home page if they practice in New York,

That should read, the "attorney advertising" marking must be on the home page....

Posted by: Eric Turkewitz | Aug 9, 2007 12:30:21 PM

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