CLEARWATER, Fla. (CN) – An attorney claims a “rate your lawyer” website defamed him and other lawyers by misrepresenting public information and using “punitive, coercive and manipulative practices” against attorneys who try to correct their listings. Larry Joe Davis Jr. a St. Petersburg attorney, sued Avvo.com in Pinellas County Court.
Davis claims Avvo misleads the public by failing to disclose that the attorney ratings on its website depend upon an attorney’s level of cooperation with the site.
Davis says he has been an attorney in good standing in Florida since 1992, and has been board certified in health law by the Florida Bar since 1999.
Davis claims that Avvo.com listed him on its website and “purports to list over ninety percent of lawyers in the United States.” He says that “Avvo.com provided a subjective one-to-10 ‘rating’ of plaintiff and all other lawyers listed on its website.”
Davis says he does not challenge Avvo’s subjective opinions, but its misrepresentations of facts and material omissions of “so-called public information.” He claims, for example, that Avvo.com identified him and at least eight other board-certified attorneys in health law in the Tampa area as practicing “100 percent employment/labor law.”
“Avvo.com’s ’employment/labor’ practice area assignment to plaintiff is especially misleading for board certified health lawyers, in that there is a separate board certification in Florida for labor and employment law – demonstrating that it is objectively an entirely different specialty form health law,” the complaint states.
Davis said he found out about the erroneous listing when he a potential client contacted him about an employment law matter.
He says the woman told him he was he listed as an employment law attorney, and that he was lowly rated. She told him she had called higher-rated attorneys but none had returned her calls, Davis says. He says she told him she finally called him, believing that as a low-rated attorney, he’d be more eager for work and more likely to return her call.
Davis said he contacted Avvo and that initially his ranking on the site improved. But he says the details in his listing did not change. When he decided he had had enough and tried to delist himself, he says, his rating declined into the “caution” category.
Davis, who is representing himself, seeks punitive damages for libel.