The Associated Press is running a story about out-of-state lawyers swooping in to the grief stricken town of Port Wentworth, Georgia in an effort to get clients from the sugar refinery explosion that happened there recently. While legal, and probably ethical, this type of vulture advertising is just plain sleazy. It taints all personal injury lawyers. Here are excerpts:
Crews are still working to douse the flames from a sugar refinery explosion, still trying to reach the last of the victims' bodies, yet already the out-of-town lawyers are swooping in.
"If you or a loved one was injured in this explosion, you may have valuable legal rights," reads a come-on from one New York-based firm that snapped up the domain name sugarrefineryexplosion.com.
The plant's owners have lawyers, a Texas attorney notes in a newspaper ad, adding: "Shouldn't you?"
While such solicitations are nothing new following major disasters, many residents in this town of 5,000 and beyond have been disgusted by the audacity of lawyers trying to round up clients before the blaze at the refinery — which continued to burn Wednesday, six days after the blast — could be extinguished and the workers' remains fully recovered.
"It's not in the best taste," said Tim Holbrook, owner of the Deli Mart, a popular eatery in downtown Port Wentworth. "The grieving process has just begun and I think it's very unthoughtful."
Even with the search continuing and the smoke still rising, trial lawyers began trolling for plaintiffs.
Word of the solicitations quickly swept through Georgia's legal community, all the way to the state Capitol.
"I'm a big believer in the First Amendment, but (it doesn't require) good taste — and that's what some lawyers do not have," state Rep. Wendell Willard, an Atlanta attorney, said by phone after taking the well of the state House Wednesday to condemn the ads. "It's unseemly, and it gives us all a bad name."
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears offered her own warning: "There are strict rules about lawyer solicitation," she told reporters at the State Capitol Wednesday. "Any lawyer that might be doing that, they need to be careful."