A California man has filed a class-action lawsuit against DoNotPay, claiming that the so-called "robot lawyer" company "is not actually a robot, a lawyer, nor a law firm" but that it generates "substandard" legal documents for paying customers anyway.
On March 3, the Chicago-based law firm Edelson filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Francisco on behalf of DoNotPay customer, Jonathan Faridian. Faridian claimed that DoNotPay is not authorized to practice law in California and that its promise to "[f]ight corporations, beat bureaucracy and sue anyone at the press of a button" has not borne out in practice.
"DoNotPay does not have a law degree, is not barred in any jurisdiction, and is not supervised by any lawyer," the lawsuit said. "DoNotPay is merely a website with a repository of — unfortunately, substandard — legal documents."
Faridian complained that the documents generated by DoNotPay were filled with "legal adlib" and rife with spelling errors. In one instance, Faridian said some demand letters he had requested from DoNotPay were returned to him undelivered and that at least one of the letters was "an otherwise-blank piece of paper with his name printed on it."
The lawsuit asserted that Faridian would never have utilized DoNotPay if he had "known that DoNotPay was not actually a lawyer." However, the app website does state clearly that DoNotPay "is not a law firm and is not licensed to practice law. DoNotPay provides a platform for legal information and self-help."
DoNotPay was founded in 2015 by CEO Joshua Browder — who was then still a student at Stanford University — to help people fight traffic tickets in court without having to hire a lawyer. The app has since expanded to cover many other "areas of the law," Browder recently told Bloomberg Technology.
Officials at the app even considered offering a chatbot service to help a traffic defendant respond to legal arguments in court but quickly abandoned that plan in January after the California State Bar threatened Browder with jail time.
Browder does not seem intimidated by the possible class-action suit, which claims to represent "all" paying DoNotPay customers in California, including Faridian. In a tweet thread posted on Thursday, Browder attacked Edelson founder Jay Edelson as "America's richest class action lawyer" and claimed he "symbolizes everything wrong with the law."
Browder also alleged that Faridian is himself a law school graduate who "has had dozens of successful consumer rights cases with DoNotPay" and who, based on his legal training, should have understood that DoNotPay is not "a real lawyer."
"DoNotPay is not going to be bullied by America's richest class action lawyer," Browder insisted.
Browder's company likewise issued a statement in response to the lawsuit: "DoNotPay respectfully denies the false allegations. The named plaintiff has submitted dozens of successful cases to DoNotPay and the cases highlighted in this lawsuit are meritless. Furthermore, the case is being filed by a lawyer who has personally been paid hundreds of millions from class actions, so it's unsurprising that he would accuse an AI of 'unauthorized practice of law.' We will defend ourselves vigorously."
DoNotPay has 30 days from the date it was served to respond to the lawsuit. The Register reported that a case management session has already been scheduled for early August.
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