CHARLESTON The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a decision from the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
The reversal determined that a state statute regulating legal advertisements regarding medications or medical devices is constitutional, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Wednesday. The appeals court’s decision remanded the matter back to the district court with instructions to dismiss the case entirely. The state statute regulates legal ads soliciting new clients to medications or medical devices. It prohibits certain terms or images that may mislead the public and requires certain disclosures to prevent confusion and protect public health. The plaintiffs had contended that this violated the First Amendment. The district court agreed and enjoined the statute in 2021. Attorney General Morrisey appealed the case to the Fourth Circuit, which handed down the reversal Wednesday. “I am pleased with the Circuit Court’s decision upholding West Virginia law,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “One function of the Attorney General’s Office is to enforce the state’s consumer protection laws, like this statute. It is designed to prevent misleading or confusing ads in order to safeguard the health and safety of the citizens of West Virginia. As the order states, ‘all West Virginia requires is that attorneys truthfully present themselves as attorneys.’” The state statute at issue in the lawsuit is the Prevention of Deceptive Lawsuit Advertising and Solicitation Practices Regarding the Use of Medications Act, which was passed by the state legislature in March 2020. The Act serves to ensure such ads do not mislead or confuse the public. “The Act’s prohibitions and disclosures work together to accomplish this end—and to protect the health of West Virginia citizens who may be misled into thinking that attorneys are reliable sources of medical advice,” according to the Circuit Court’s ruling.