More to “Ask a Lawyer” Lawsuit than Meets the Eye

Media outlets in Texas and around the world have been having a field day with the recent story of a Dallas lawyer who filed suit against a local television station for allegedly failing to forward calls to his office after the attorney purchased spots on an “Ask the Lawyer” program. But as often happens with media reports about lawsuits and lawyers, there’s more to the story.

Thomas Corea of Dallas’ Corea Trial Group filed the claim seeking $1.4 million after CBS affiliate KXTA allegedly failed to forward nearly 60 percent of the calls the station received during episodes of “Ask the Lawyer With Tom Corea,” which cost the firm $2,750 per 30-minute episode. According to the complaint, Corea received more than 1,200 calls during the initial episodes of “Ask the Lawyer” before the phone lines seemingly went dead. The lawsuit says Corea discovered the reason for the decline when his sales rep at the TV station provided a list of all the “Ask a Lawyer” calls the station received during the times when the program aired. When Corea compared that list to one assembled by his call center, he found that only 44 percent of the incoming calls actually were transferred to his office, according to the allegations.

Some media pundits have mocked the lawsuit as a situation where a “TV lawyer” is simply experiencing sour grapes, but Corea’s petition tells a different story. The filing explains that Corea secured an agreement with the station beforehand to ensure that representatives from his office would be able to answer each call in order to guard against callers receiving potentially erroneous answers to legal questions and to prevent any appearance of impropriety or, worse, barratry. Corea also says in the lawsuit that both he and the station agreed that a high number of calls was the only reason for the lawyer to purchase the “Ask a Lawyer” spots in the first place, so the agreement basically became worthless once the call volume cratered.

So all the media hype essentially boils down to a contract dispute between two parties, which ultimately will be decided based on the actual language of the agreed contract. The fact that one of those parties was a lawyer and the other was a TV station is all that was necessary to turn this somewhat mundane contract case into a media firestorm.


Posted: 4/6/2012 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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