A proposed class action lawsuit aims to stop the “world’s first robot lawyer” from practicing law since it lacks a law degree and supervision from any qualified attorney.
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The 12-page complaint contends that DoNotPay, Inc., whose AI-powered “Robot Lawyer” chatbot relies on natural language processing and machine learning to provide ostensible legal advice, has run afoul of California’s State Bar Act by practicing law without a license.
Although the company purports to be able to help consumers with everything from drafting powers of attorney to crafting divorce settlements to filing cases in small claims court,DoNotPay.comis no more than a website that, at best, fills in a “legal adlib” based on data inputted by users, the filing alleges. These users, the lawsuit stresses, may not fully grasp the law or implications of the legal documents or processes for which they’ve asked the defendant for help.
“Unfortunately for its customers, DoNotPay is not actually a robot, a lawyer, nor a law firm,” the suit states, describing the website as merely a repository of “unfortunately substandard” legal documents. “DoNotPay does not have a law degree, is not barred in any jurisdiction, and is not supervised by any lawyer.”
The lawsuit relays that practicing law without a license in California is banned under state law, which prohibits individuals from holding themselves out as lawyers while not being admitted to the California Bar.
“Despite this prohibition,” the case says, “DoNotPay’s Robot Lawyer provided and continues to provide unauthorized legal services to thousands of customers throughout the country.”
Per the suit, DoNotPay was founded in 2015, initially as a tool to help consumers fight parking tickets. Since then, the company has expanded its repertoire to cover myriad legal issues, including helping consumers access unemployment benefits and other government services, the case relays.
Throughout its marketing materials, DoNotPay offers consumers the ability to essentially hire a lawyer with the click of a button that reads “Solve This Problem For Me,” the complaint explains.
Despite the foregoing, DoNotPay is neither a lawyer nor a law firm, and its founder similarly has no legal credentials, according to the case.
The lawsuit accuses DoNotPay of “miss[ing] the point” when, in respone to being “publicly called out for practicing law without a license,” its founder blamed “’greedy lawyers’ for getting in his way.”
“Providing legal services to the public, without being a lawyer or even supervised by a lawyer is reckless and dangerous,” the suit says. “And it has real world consequences for the customers it hurts.”
Per the case, one customer relayed through an online review that his parking ticket fines actually increased because “DoNotPay failed to respond to the ticket summons.” Though the consumer canceled his DoNotPay account, the company continued to charge him a subscription fee, the filing says.
Another customer attempted to use DoNotPay’s service to fight a parking ticket, intending to argue that she was not at fault, the case continues. Instead, DoNotPay “admitted fault, and the customer had to pay a resulting $114 fine,” the suit states.
Though DoNotPay CEO Joshua Browder indicated earlier this year that DoNotPay would revamp how it represents itself, the complaint states that, at the time of filing, DoNotPay’s website still refers to itself as the “world’s first robot lawyer” and continues to offer legal products to the public.
The plaintiff, a Yolo County, California resident who used DoNotPay for a variety of services until January 2023, says that he believed he was buying from the defendant legal documents and services that “would be fit for use from a lawyer that was competent to provide them.” Instead, the plaintiff received legal services that were “substandard and poorly done,” the case claims.
The lawsuit looks to cover all California residents who bought subscriptions toDoNotPay.com.
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