PA 09-222—sHB 6642
Insurance and Real Estate Committee
AN ACT CONCERNING SOLICITATION OF CLIENTS, PATIENTS OR CUSTOMERS
SUMMARY: This act makes it illegal for anyone to act as a “runner” by knowingly, and for financial gain, getting or attempting to get a patient, client, or customer for “providers. ” It specifies that people can engage in certain activities without being considered “runners. ” Providers are attorneys, health care professionals, legal or health care services business owners or operators, people pretending that they or their business or practice can provide such services, or an employee of or anyone acting on behalf of any of these people, who:
1. seek to obtain benefits under an insurance contract;
2. assert a claim against an insured or an insurance carrier for providing services to the client, patient, or customer; or
3. obtain benefits under or assert a claim against a state or federal health care benefits program or prescription drug assistance program.
The act also makes it a crime to solicit, direct, hire, or employ someone as a runner. The penalty for acting as, or hiring, a runner is imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The criminal penalties do not apply to the referral of individuals between (1) attorneys, (2) health care professionals, or (3) attorneys and health care professionals.
The act specifies that its prohibitions and penalties are in addition to, and cannot be interpreted to limit or restrict, the laws that (1) prohibit soliciting people to file lawsuits for damages, or soliciting cases for attorneys, or (2) limit communications by attorneys to prospective clients (see BACKGROUND).
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2009
The act specifies that a “runner” does not include an individual who:
1. procures or attempts to procure clients, patients, or customers for a provider through public media;
2. refers prospective clients, patients, or customers to a provider as otherwise authorized by law;
3. facilitates, presents, or speaks at a meeting, program, or seminar that is open to the public and at which information about a provider's services are discussed; or
4. is a bona fide employee of a provider who responds to an inquiry or request for information initiated by a prospective client, patient, or customer.
Under the act, “public media” means telephone directories, professional directories, newspapers and other periodicals, radio and television, billboards, mail, or electronically transmitted written communications that do not involve in-person contact with a specific prospective client, patient, or customer.
Under the act a “provider” is:
1. an attorney;
2. a health care professional;
3. a person who owns or operates a business or entity that provides legal or health care services;
4. a person who, by his or her representations, creates a reasonable belief that he or she or his or her practice, business, or entity can provide legal or health care services; or
5. a person employed by or acting on behalf of any of these persons.
A health care professional includes any person licensed or who holds a permit for or as:
1. medicine and surgery,
5. athletic training,
6. physical therapists,
7. occupational therapists,
8. substance abuse counselors,
9. radiographer and radiologic technologist,
13. dental hygienists,
16. respiratory care practitioner,
18. marital and family therapist,
19. clinical social worker,
20. professional counselor,
21. veterinary medicine,
22. massage therapist,
23. dietitian and nutritionist,
26. embalmer and funeral director,
27. hearing instrument specialist, or
28. speech and language pathologist and audiology.
Related Law-Soliciting Persons to Sue for Damages
The law prohibits individuals not licensed as attorneys from soliciting, advising, requesting, or inducing another person to cause a lawsuit for damages to be instituted, if (1) he or she may, by agreement or otherwise, directly or indirectly, receive compensation from the person filing suit or his or her attorney or (2) the attorney's compensation for instituting or prosecuting the action depends upon the amount of the recovery. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $100, imprisonment up to six months, or both (CGS § 51-86).
Related Law-Solicitation of Cases for Attorneys
The law makes it a crime for anyone to pay, remunerate, or reward:
1. any other person with something of value to solicit or obtain a cause of action or client for an attorney;
2. any other person with something of value for soliciting or bringing a cause of action or a client to an attorney;
3. a police officer, court officer, correctional institution officer or employee; physician or hospital employees; automobile repairman, tower or wreckers; funeral director; or any other person who induces any person to seek the services of an attorney; or
4. any other person as an inducement to bring a cause of action to, or to come to, an attorney or to seek his professional services.
The law also makes it a crime to employ an agent, runner, or other person to solicit or obtain a cause of action or a client for an attorney. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to three years or both. The law does not prohibit an attorney from engaging others for professional assistance or referring a case to another attorney (CGS § 51-87(a)).
The law also makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly receive or accept any payment, remuneration, or reward for (1) referring or bringing a cause of action or prospective client to an attorney or (2) inducing or influencing any other person to seek the professional advice or services of an attorney. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to three years, or both. The law does not apply to an attorney referring causes of action or clients or other persons to another attorney (CGS § 51-87(b).
Related Law-Limitations on Written Communications to Prospective Clients.
An attorney may not send, or knowingly permit to be sent, on behalf of his or her firm or other attorneys affiliated with his or her firm a written communication to a prospective client to obtain professional employment if:
1. the written communication concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death or otherwise relates to an accident or disaster involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a relative of that person, unless the accident or disaster occurred more than 40 days before the communication is mailed;
2. the written communication concerns a specific matter and the attorney knows or reasonably should know that the person to whom the communication is directed is represented by an attorney in the matter;
3. the attorney knows that the person does not want to receive such communications from him or her;
4. the communication involves coercion, duress, fraud, overreaching, harassment, intimidation, or undue influence;
5. the communication contains a false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, or unfair statement or claim; or
6. the attorney knows or reasonably should know that the physical, emotional, or mental state of the person makes it unlikely that the person would exercise reasonable judgment in employing an attorney.
The law also contains certain requirements concerning written communications to prospective clients known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter for the purpose of obtaining professional employment (CGS § 51-87a).
OLR Tracking: GC: SN-E: JL: DF