Personal Injury Firm Files Lawsuit Over Alleged Referral Website Scheme
A Texas personal injury firm dropped a federal lawsuit and filed a new state court lawsuit today against an attorney referral website and a competitor law firm. The complaint alleges the website and competitor firm are working together to steal clients through manipulated search engine results.
Ben Abbott & Associates PLLC, a Dallas-area personal injury firm, informed a Texas federal judge it wished to drop the trademark infringement suit against website Accident Injury Legal Center. The move to drop the federal suit comes a day after the firm’s representatives filed a lawsuit in state court against the website’s operator, Quintessa LLC, and competitor personal injury firm Stanley & Associates PLLC.
The complaint, filed in Dallas County District Court, alleges Stanley & Associates paid Quintessa to operate a scheme intended to redirect potential new clients from Ben Abbott & Associates PLLC to Stanley & Associates PLLC. When potential clients would search for the terms “Ben Abbott” and “Ben Abbott & Associates” online they would be directed to a standard “click-to-call” ad. Users who clicked on the ad were then allegedly connected to Quintessa representatives, rather than anyone affiliated with Ben Abbott & Associates. According to the complaint, Quintessa representatives would then refer those potential new clients to Stanley & Associates.
“Quintessa’s intentionally vague advertisement does not identify any lawyer or law firm,” representatives for Ben Abbott & Associates stated during court proceedings. “It also does not allow the prospective client to actually click on the link and visit the ‘Accident Injury Legal Center’ website. Instead, by design, Quintessa’s advertisement only allows the prospective client to click on the phone number, which automatically calls the number listed.”
In the complaint Ben Abbott & Associates accuse Quintessa of including the firm’s name as specific keyword search terms within the Google advertisement. When users conduct a general search the click-to-call advertisement allegedly ranks just above the law firm’s actual website within the search results. Additionally, Ben Abbott & Associates claim in the suit that Quintessa — reportedly based out of Oklahoma — is unauthorized to do business in Texas.
Furthermore, in the complaint Ben Abbott & Associates accuse Stanley & Associates of having direct knowledge of Quintessa’s “deceptive practices” and “materially benefiting from the scheme.”
Ben Abbott & Associates are claiming state trademark infringement, unfair competition, tortious interference, and civil conspiracy. According to the petition the firm is seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in damages as well as injunctive relief against Quintessa and Stanley & Associates.