In what it described as a case pitting “real lawyers against a robot lawyer,” a federal court in Illinois has dismissed a law firm’s suit against the self-help legal service DoNotPay.
In March, the Illinois law firm, MillerKing brought the putative class action against DoNotPay on behalf of “all law firms in the United States,” alleging false association and false advertising under the federal Lanham Act and Illinois state law.
The firm based its lawsuit on DoNotPay’s claims that it allows consumers to “[f]ight corporations, beat bureaucracy and sue anyone at the press of a button,” even though it is not licensed to practice law.
But DoNotPay — represented by real, not robot, lawyers — moved to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting that MillerKing lacked standing to sue it in federal court.
In an order issued Friday, the court agreed with DoNotPay, holding that MillerKing had failed to establish standing because it had failed to allege that it has suffered any concrete injury.
“MK has not alleged any lost revenue or added expenditures as a result of DNP’s conduct,” wrote U.S. District Chief Judge Nancy Rosenstengel. “Nor has it alleged that any client or prospective client has withheld business, has considered withholding business, or has even heard of DNP.”
MillerKing also failed to present facts to support its claim that DoNotPay had hurt its reputation or lessened its goodwill, the judge said.
“While the complaint asserts that DNP has provided poor customer service at times, leading to adverse legal consequences for DNP’s customers, the complaint fails to cite any instance where DNP’s failures were imputed to MK specifically or lawyers generally.”
In addition, the court dismissed MillerKing’s attempt to portray DoNotPay as a direct competitor that could take potential customers away from its firm, finding that the two entities provide very different “products.”
“MK is a law firm employing real, licensed attorneys who appear in court before judges, represent clients, make legal arguments, and sign legal documents,” the judge wrote. “MK claims to advertise its services online, but it does not provide those services online. DNP is a web-based company
purporting to use AI to provide legal services virtually. In other words, while the parties participate in similar industries, they are not selling identical products.”
Another lawsuit alleging unauthorized practice of law by DoNotPay, Faridian v. DoNotPay, remains pending in California, where the judge is considering DoNotPay’s motion to compel arbitration of the dispute. A second California lawsuit, Lee v. DoNotPay, was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff last month after the judge sent it to arbitration in July.
In a LinkedIn post, Joshua Browder, the founder and CEO of DoNotPay, praised the dismissal of MillerKing lawsuit as “an important precedent for the future of AI litigation.”
Last February, Browder appeared on my LawNext podcast to address claims that several of DoNotPay’s self-help legal tools were ineffective, calling those claims “a bit of a nothingburger.” The following week on my podcast, I interviewed Kathryn Tewson, the paralegal who had published the claims against DoNotPay after testing several of its tools.
In a subsequent related episode, I interviewed Maya Markovich, executive director and cofounder of the Justice Technology Association, and Tom Gordon, executive director of Responsive Law, an organization that represents the consumers’ voice in the legal system, about an op-ed they co-authored in which they argued that reforms in the regulation of the practice of law could have prevented the DoNotPay debacle.