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House committee OKs bill to increase penalties for attorneys that case run

Brandon Moseley

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On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill, HB189, which increases the penalties for unscrupulous attorneys who aggressively seek out potential plaintiffs, by offering bribes, inducements, or by hiring a person to recruit potential clients.

The term used for this unscrupulous practice is case running.

“Under existing law, an attorney who gives, offers or promises to give a valuable consideration, including money, to another person for the purpose of encouraging that person to bring an action against another; or who employs another person to search for or procure clients to be brought to the attorney is guilty of a misdemeanor and is fined not more than $1,000, removed and disbarred from practicing as an attorney, and may be imprisoned for a term not exceeding six months. This bill would increase the criminal penalty by providing that the attorney would be fined not more than $10,000 and may be imprisoned for not more than one year.”

HB189 is sponsored by state Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo.

The House Judiciary Committee is chaired by state Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville.

Fridy said the legislation would increase the fine for case running. It would also mean disbarment if an attorney is caught engaging in the practice.

“This has become a bigger and bigger problem, particularly in the Birmingham area,” Friday said. “The trial attorneys I know are good people that operate in a very ethical manner. The purpose of this bill is to make an example of the few bad apples that are not doing it the right way.”

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“I support the bill, but I have never seen this prosecuted,” said State Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma. “We all know who is doing this and some of them are the largest, most powerful law firms.”

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“The same handful of large law firms get all of the wrongful death cases within a one-hundred mile radius,” Chestnut said. “If we do this, I want to see it done fairly and go after the big firms and not just a solo practitioner trying to make a living.”

HB189 received a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee and now moves on to consideration by the full House of Representatives.

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