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William Large

Gov. DeSantis poised to enact trial lawyer advertising reforms

By Juliette Fairley - May 24, 2023

Now that House Bill 1205 has been approved by the Florida Legislature, it’s only a matter of time before Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it into law, according to lobbyists.

HB 1205 regulates legal services ads related to pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices on television, radio, billboards, and digital ads.

“The problem that we see in Florida are ads done by non-attorneys, which are really legal aggregators,” said William W. Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, a lobbying organization in Tallahassee. 

Some of the ads allegedly use logos, phrases and imagery that imitate a government entity's health alerts in misleading ways.

As a result, certain patients, such as senior citizens, suffer health consequences because they are influenced to stop taking their prescribed medications.

“You might see an ad late at night and if you look at the small print, you'd realize it was not done by an attorney,” Large told the Florida Record.

A Food and Drug Administration report found that doctors submitted 61 reports of patients stopping their prescribed anticoagulant after viewing a lawsuit ad, resulting in six deaths and a wide range of other adverse events, the most frequent of which was a stroke.

“The Florida Bar does an excellent job of policing ads by members of the Florida Bar but we live in a world today where on cable television an ad can be broadcast in the state of Florida, and it's not done by a Florida attorney but it reaches a Florida audience," Large said in an interview. "This bill is meant to address those situations, and I think it's very important.”

Once enacted, HB 1205 is expected to protect patients by outlawing misleading phrases used in some legal advertising, such as 'medical alert' and 'recall' when a product has not, in reality, been recalled under state or federal regulations in advertisements.

The bill would also require ad producers to include disclaimers to ensure that patients are aware that the advertisement is promoting legal services and that they should consult their doctor before making any medical decisions.

"When they produce an ad that's misleading, what is the recourse the citizens of the state of Florida have," Large added. "The recourse would be this bill. If an ad is misleading, the way this bill is drafted and narrowly drawn advances the substantial interest, and therefore we believe it's constitutional."

Other states that already have addressed the issue with similar legislation are Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.