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Lawyers’ Association Seeks Halt to Ad Campaign

November 21, 1988

DENVER (AP) _ A lawyers’ association has asked Colorado Insurance Commissioner John Kezer to put a stop to an Aetna Life & Casulty advertising campaign on lawsuit abuse, contending that it misleads the public.

The Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, a trade group for lawyers who handle personal injury lawsuits, contends that many of the problems mentioned in Aetna’s ads were resolved through the state’s 1986 ″tort reform″ law, which sets limits on damages in personal injury lawsuits.

Kezer said he is still weighing the issue of misrepresentation versus Aetna’s First Amendment right to speak out on issues. ″It’s not just black and white,″ he said.

Aetna’s campaign, ongoing in Denver, St. Louis, Rochester, N.Y., and New Orleans, highlights what the Connecticut-based company claims is a growing abuse of the nation’s court system by people trying to make money via lawsuits.

The ads complain that abusive lawsuits are costing insurance companies too much money and that the public is paying for it through higher insurance rates. They ask concerned parties to call a toll-free number.

Lance Sears, president of the lawyers’ association, said the 1986 Colorado law made important changes aimed at ending frivolous suits and other abuses in the state’s civil justice system.

Bob Caruthers, Aetna’s director of corporate communications, said the company wants to make people as aware of lawsuit abuse ″as they are of littering and drunken driving.″

He said the ad campaign is different from the sort of campaign waged in 1986 when the state’s tort reform was passed. At that time, he said, Aetna was trying to reach business leaders and elected officials.

Now, he said, the company is taking its case to the people.

In some cases, tort reform and other civil statutes are being challenged, which is one reason for the campaign, he said.

The company is planning to expand the $800,000 test market to a nationwide newspaper-and-radio advertising campaign.

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