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Lawsuit Abuse Watchdogs Urge Legislature to Pass SB 1189 to Protect Texas Patients from Misleading Ads

AUSTIN, TEXAS—Television viewers in each of Texas’ four largest media markets were bombarded with an average $4.1 million in ads for lawyers, lawsuits and legal services in the final quarter of 2018, according to a new study released today by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA).  That translates into an average of one legal services ad for every minute of airtime across the state’s top four media markets, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

The study was released as Texas lawmakers consider legislation that would address a growing concern among doctors and health care professionals about the negative impact misleading lawsuit ads can have on patient health.  Legislation by Sen. Dawn Buckingham – Senate Bill 1189 – would require advertisements to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting a doctor.  The bill was passed by the Texas Senate and is now pending in the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

“Consumers currently have little protection from misleading ads for legal services — they’re everywhere, all the time and often scare people out of taking necessary medication,” said Marcus Jahns, chairman of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.  “To put it in perspective, in Houston alone, there were twelve times as many legal services ads broadcast during local TV programming as there were commercials advertising banks.  In Dallas-Fort Worth, television viewers saw an average of 336 legal services ads per day or 14 ads per hour.” 

In recent years, Texas health care professionals have become increasingly alarmed by the impact that some lawsuit advertisements can have on patient behavior. A 2016 survey conducted on behalf of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse confirmed that 82 percent of doctors believe that such ads can lead to patients not taking their medications as prescribed. The survey also found that 66 percent of doctors say patients have questioned their recommended course of treatment, citing concerns about claims they saw in a lawsuit ad.

“Because many of these ads are misleading, scaring people into a lawsuit and scaring them off of their medications, it’s time for the Legislature to step in,” said Karen Easterling, chair of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.  “This is exactly why we need common sense measures in place, and why we urge lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 1189.”

Added Jahns: “We’re confident that SB 1189 will help to rein in deceptive and overly-aggressive advertising, and we’re hoping the House gives final approval and Governor Abbott signs this critical piece of reform into law.”

While the report found an average of $4.1 million was spent in each of the four largest media markets in Texas in the final quarter of 2018, most ad spending was seen in San Antonio. According to the report, San Antonio saw the steepest quarterly increase in legal services ad spending among the four media markets reviewed. In the San Antonio media market, estimated legal services ad spending in the fourth quarter skyrocketed by nearly $1 million or 22 percent over the third quarter spending and $2 million more than was spent in the second quarter of 2018.

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