Judge tosses UPL suit against 'robot lawyer' DoNotPay, saying law firm plaintiff was not harmed

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Screenshot DoNotPay homepage

Screenshot from the DoNotPay website.

A small law firm didn’t have standing to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all U.S. firms against “robot lawyer” DoNotPay for the unauthorized practice of law, a federal judge in Illinois has ruled.

Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel of the Southern District of Illinois ruled Nov. 17, report Reuters and Law360.

Rosenstengel said Illinois firm MillerKing didn’t have standing because it didn’t adequately allege that it lost clients or suffered reputational harm because of DoNotPay’s success.

“The court will not infer that MK has suffered harm through lost clients just because DNP has gained them,” wrote Rosenstengel, using initials to refer to MillerKing and DoNotPay.

DoNotPay, an online subscription service, calls itself a robot lawyer because it uses artificial intelligence to provide legal services. It doesn’t have a license to practice law. It provides personalized contracts in a variety of legal areas and offers advice on how to appeal traffic tickets and the procedures for property tax appeals.

Joshua Browder

Joshua Browder is the CEO of DoNotPay. Photo by Tony Avelar/ABA Journal.

MillerKing said it was a direct competitor of DoNotPay, and it was harmed when DoNotPay created the false impression that it was affiliated with licensed attorneys. MillerKing alleged false advertising, deceptive trade practices and unauthorized practice of law by DoNotPay.

Rosenstengel said MillerKing “has alleged no particularized harm to it whatsoever” but gave the firm a chance to file an amended complaint.

DoNotPay CEO Joshua Browder told Reuters that he is “thrilled” that the suit has been dismissed.

“It’s proven what we believed from the very beginning: That there was no concrete harm,” he said.

Browder is a 2017 ABA Journal Legal Rebel.

A separate lawsuit is pending against DoNotPay in California. It alleges that DoNotPay violated California’s unfair competition law by holding itself out as a lawyer to state residents and by selling legal services there without a law license. The plaintiff is a customer who was unhappy with DoNotPay’s services.

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