f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 3, 2004

NJ Court Won’t Apply Consumer Fraud Act to MDs & JDs

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:12 pm

law’s a beach in NJ


Consumer fraud laws do not protect New Jersey patients or clients from fraudulent advertising, according to an opinion released by its Supreme Court.  An article in Newsday reports that the Court refused to apply the 40-year old statutue to doctors, lawyers and other learned professions, who “were not permitted to advertise at the time the law was enacted.”  (“N.J. Supreme Court says doctors can’t be sued for consumer fraud,” February 3, 2004) (Thanks to Legal Reader for the pointer, and especially to Jurist Paperchase, for adding links to the Act and decision.) 


It’s time for New Jersey’s legislature to stand up to medical and legal lobbies and clarify that the Consumer Fraud Act reaches doctors and lawyers.  Until then, legal clients are left under the protection of some fairly sleepy watchdogs.   According to HALT’s Report Card on the NJ discipline system, bar counsel investigate less than half of complaints made, and complainants are under a strict “gag rule” prohibiting discussing a complaint with anyone.   Despite getting good grades for holding open hearings, lawyer discipline in NJ got an overall C- for a grade, 27th in the nation.


In addition, you may remember from our post last September, that New Jersey RPC 1.1, the State’s ethical rule covering Competence, is considerably weaker than the Model Rule on Competence.  NJ won’t brand lawyer performance as incompetent unless it amounts to “gross negligence” or  a “pattern of negligence.”   My tip for legal consumers in NJ: pray for luck when choosing an attorney.

  • Extending consumer fraud statutes to lawyers in state’s that exempt them from coverage is a major goal of the legal reform group HALT.  Read about their activities in this area here.

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