hn Vrdolyak v. Avvo opinion issued; decision validates that Avvo can publish information for consumers without attorney consent
Seattle, Wash — Avvo, the leading legal marketplace connecting lawyers with consumers, was vindicated in the placement of competitive advertisements within its lawyer directory. The putative class action – brought first on behalf of attorney Moira Bernstein, who was later substituted for John Vrdolyak as named plaintiff – claimed Avvo violates the Illinois Right of Publicity Act (“IRPA”) by creating attorney profiles without consent and placing paid advertisements from other attorneys on those profile pages.
The court ruled that Avvo is protected by the First Amendment in publishing attorney profiles accompanied by paid advertising. The ruling is consistent with the outcome of a similar publicity rights claim in federal court in California that settled last month (Aaron H. Darsky v. Avvo Inc., case number 3:15-cv-05495), in which the plaintiff dismissed the case and agreed to pay Avvo’s legal fees. California, unlike Illinois, has a strong anti-SLAPP motion statute, requiring mandatory payment of the defendant’s attorney fees when frivolous lawsuits designed to suppress free speech rights are filed.
“This is further validation that publishers like Avvo needn’t obtain the consent of their subjects prior to exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Avvo Chief Legal Officer Josh King. “The purpose of a free and unfettered media is to provide transparency and openness. While we never felt like the principle was really at risk here, we’re pleased at the explicit recognition that our efforts to help people better understand lawyers and the legal profession is fully protected by the First Amendment.”
The case is John Vrdolyak v. Avvo, case number 1:16-cv-02833, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. For additional information about Avvo, visit www.avvo.com.
About Avvo, Inc.
Avvo helps people find and connect with the right lawyer through industry leading content, tools and services. Founded in 2006 in Seattle, Avvo provides transparent information about attorneys, with Avvo-rated profiles for 97% of practicing lawyers in the United States. A free Q&A forum with more than 8 million questions and answers and on-demand legal services that provide professional counsel for a fixed cost, make legal faster and easier. For more information on how Avvo helps people through legal issues from research to resolution, visit www.avvo.com.