An ongoing dispute with State Farm has resulted in a federal lawsuit being filed against 1-800-Ask Gary and its founder, Gary Kompothecras (among other defendants). The federal suit was filed in the Middle District of Florida alleging fraud. State Farm claims that the lawyer referral service only makes medical referrals to Physicians Group, which is an entity formerly owned by Gary Kompothecras and his cousin.
1-800-ASK-GARY advertises itself as “A Doctor and Lawyer Referral Service.” The inference “Ask Gary” allegedly has attempted to create that is that business is being done at arm’s length with independent entities. You have to ask yourself if you would be more or less likely to call such a service if you knew that Ask Gary and Physicians Group were interrelated. If you knew attorneys that participate in “ASK-GARY” pay a large monthly fee and the medical referrals are made to clinics wholly owned by the founder (or secretly controlled by the founder) or his relative, would you still make that call? The court will decide whether or not laws were violated but regardless of the outcome, necessary attention should be brought to the consequences of using a referral service to locate medical providers or legal services. The allegations expressly listed in the complaint are very serious in nature and disturbing to say the least.
There is plenty of fodder online where you can read varying opinions about Lawyer Referral Services, including The Dolman Law Blog and http://www.1800askgarysucks.com/. The latter, as the title implies, digs very deep into the business dealings of referral services such as 1-800-ASK-Gary and 411-Pain.
This lawsuit arises out of an ongoing dispute between the parties. State Farm claims to have paid approximately $19,000,000 in PIP Benefits (Personal Injury Protection benefits to pay for expeditious medical treatment) since 2005. Physicians Group, LLC claims that State Farm still owes $9,000,000 in unpaid claims over the same time period. The suit further alleges that the “Defendants intentionally violated several important criminal, civil and administrative laws to lure unwitting motor vehicle accident victims to receive the services and treatments at the Physicians Group clinics, namely the Patient Brokering Act (Fla. Stat. § 817.505), the Patient Self-Referral Act of 1992 (Fla. Stat. § 456.053), the Anti-Kickback Statute (Fla. Stat. § 456.054), the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (Fla. Stat. § 501.201 et seq.) (“FDUTPA”).”
Most of this blog has been dedicated to the medical referral portion of “Ask Gary’s” business. What does this mean for the attorneys that pay to receive referrals from 1-800-ASK-GARY? When you dive into the 52 pages of the lawsuit, which reads like a John Grisham novel, it is apparent that the amount of information and investigative work that has been done by State Farm is vast. At least one very well known Bay Area law firm’s name appears over 40 times in the complaint filed with the court. Have the firms that have paid to join “Ask Gary’s” exclusive network exposed themselves to undue scrutiny if they were aware of the unscrupulous behavior of Gary Kompothecras or his various entities?
The hiring of an attorney is an extremely important decision that consumers must make; when in most circumstances, the consumer is wrapped up in a process that they have no desire to be part of. The big question to be posed is how much will this lawsuit change the landscape of referral services in our state? It is my hope that consumers are no longer exposed to the litany of deceptive advertising that we endure day in and day out.
The attorneys at Dolman Law Group have never and will never, participate in a lawyer referral service. Most of our clients are the friends and family members of previous or existing clients. This is a testament to the quality of service and personal attention that our attorneys provide. If you or a loved one is ever in need of quality, ethical representation, you don’t need to ask a referral service for help. Call the experienced trial attorneys of Dolman Law Group at 727-451-6900.